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Melanoma Can Strike Your Nails: Here's How to Check

SUNDAY, May 16, 2021 -- When checking your body for signs of skin cancer, don't overlook your nails.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) points out that skin cancer -- including melanoma, the deadliest type -- can develop under and around the fingernails and toenails. Though it's rare, it's more common in older people with darker skin.

Risk factors include personal or family history of melanoma or nail trauma.

"When found early, melanoma -- even on the nails -- is highly treatable," said Dr. Skylar Souyoul, a board-certified dermatologist in Norwell, Mass. "The best way to find skin cancer on your nails early, when it's most treatable, is to know what to look for and regularly check your nails."

Souyoul recommends looking for:

  • Dark streaks. They may look like a brown or black band. They're often on the thumb or big toe, but can develop on any nail. Nails might also have a band of color, which can be wide and irregular or dark and narrow.
  • Dark skin next to the nail. When the skin around nails is darker, it could be a sign of advanced melanoma.
  • Nail lifting from fingers or toes. The nail begins to separate from the nail bed and the white edge at the top will look longer as the nail lifts.
  • Splitting. Watch for nails that split down the middle.
  • A bump or nodule under your nails.

"Nail melanoma is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage than melanoma on the skin, making it more dangerous for your health," Souyoul said in an AAD news release. "If you notice any changes to your nails, including a new dark band on your nail, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist."

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.


  • American Academy of Dermatology, news release, May 11, 2021

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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