Surprising Spots for Skin Cancer

You're smart about protecting yourself from the sun. You slather on sunblock to walk the dog. You wear a hat and duck under an umbrella when you're at the beach.

But you need to protect your skin all the time. Sun can cause damage year-round, and skin cancer can show up in surprising places.

The next time you grab your sunscreen, don't forget these spots. They're also important places to look when you search your body for signs of sun damage:

Scalp: The top of your head is a common place for skin cancer. That's why you need to cover up in the sun.

Ears : Both the outside and inside can be spots for cancer. Remember this when you apply sunscreen.

Eyelids: It's hard to put sunscreen in this area, so people often skip it. If you decide to apply, choose a product with an SPF of 30 or higher. To be safe, always wear sunglasses that block 99%-100% of UV rays.

Mouth: Your lower lip is the most common spot around the mouth for skin cancer. The good news: It's easy to see, which means it’s easy to catch and treat early. Use a lip product with sun protection when you go outside.

Cancer can also affect the mucous membranes that line your mouth, nose, and esophagus. It can be hard to spot because it can seem like more common conditions.

Soles of the feet: Skin cancer here is often linked to viruses, inflammation, or inherited conditions, not the sun. It usually doesn't hurt, but you may have repeated bleeding and cracking in the area.

Under nails: This rare skin cancer looks like a dark spot under your fingernail or toenail. People often ignore it because it looks like a bruise or streak. Remove nail polish once in a while so you can check your nails for changes.

Underarms: Lumps or bumps in your armpits could be swollen lymph nodes. That might mean skin cancer has spread.

Palms of your hand: Skin cancer here can look like a bruise or an irregular spot.

Between fingers and toes: These are places most people wouldn't necessarily think to check for skin changes.

Groin: Lumps or bumps in the genital area could mean swollen lymph nodes. Have your doctor check. Cancer can also grow in the membranes of the vagina, anus, and urinary tract.

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Skin Cancer Causes

There are more causes than just sun exposure. That's especially true when cancer pops up on places that rarely see the sun.

Inherited genes can cause it. You're more likely to have skin cancer if other people in your family had it.

Viruses, exposure to radiation, and a weakened immune system can also trigger skin cancer. Your chances may also rise if you have fair skin, lots of moles, or a history of sunburns or tanning bed use.

How to Spot Skin Cancer

Check your body often for new growths or any changes in ones you already have. Use hand mirrors to get a closer view:

  • Chest and back
  • Each side
  • Underarms
  • Hands and palms
  • Fronts and backs of your arms and legs
  • Tops and soles of your feet
  • Spaces between your toes
  • Scalp -- part your hair to get a closer look
  • Behind and inside your ears
  • Face
  • Backside and genitals
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 25, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

HealthyWomen: "Unexpected Places You Can Get Skin Cancer."

Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada: "Surprising Places Vulnerable to Skin Cancer and Melanoma."

Skin Cancer Foundation: "Lip Cancer: Not Uncommon, Often Overlooked," "The Eyelids: Highly Susceptible to Skin Cancer."

Mayo Clinic: "Melanoma: Symptoms," "Skin Cancer: Prevention," "Skin Cancer: Risk Factors."

American Podiatric Medical Association: "Skin Cancers of the Feet."

Melanoma Research Foundation: "Cutaneous Melanoma, or Melanoma of the Skin."

American Cancer Society: "Tests for Melanoma Skin Cancer."

Jack H. Marston II Melanoma Fund: "Melanoma Where the Sun Doesn't Shine."

American Academy of Dermatology: "Detect Skin Cancer."

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