6 Unusual Places You Need To Check For Skin Cancer
photo: Corbis

You might not be aware but skin cancer is actually the most common form of cancer in the United States and yet too many of us still seem to believe all the bogus myths that suggest we’re somehow immune to it. It doesn’t matter if you have a naturally olive or tan complexion – skin cancer can literally happen to anyone. In fact, the rates among Hispanics have increased almost 20 percent in the past two decades.

“Many Hispanics believe that because of their ethnicity and because they have darker skin they are not susceptible to have skin cancer. This is a misconception far from reality,” says New York City-based dermatologist, Dr. Miriam Casal.

She claims the increase in skin cancer among Latinas is mainly due to lack of awareness.

“There aren’t enough skin cancer education campaigns for Hispanics. This is why the role of the dermatologist and general physician as educators is essential to increase awareness among patients,” says Casal. “More than 43 percent of Hispanic patients never or rarely use sunscreen. Approximately 40 pecent of Hispanics sunbath. One in three Hispanics have had sun burn in the past year.”

Melanoma – the most aggressive of all skin cancers – is the second most common cancer after breast cancer in women ages 39 or under.

“Melanoma in Latinos has increased by 2.9 percent every single year in the last 15 years,” says Dermatologist and Neutrogena ambassador, Dr. Leyda Bowes. “Today, we diagnose almost 50 percent more cases of melanoma in Hispanics than we did 15 years ago.”

The trick is early detection. When detected early, skin cancer has a 98 percent survival rate. Casal says it’s important to pay attention to the not-so-obvious parts of our bodies too, that can also become prone to developing skin cancer. Sure, we check our face, back, and legs but what about our ears, nails, or the soles of our feet? You can totally get cancer there!

Here are 6 parts of the body to check along with everything else you need to know and do to prevent skin cancer all together.

Genitals: Yep, you can absolutely get skin cancer in your private areas. "Although rare, the 3 major types of skin cancer can develop in the genitals. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma,” says Casal. But believe or not this type of skin cancer isn’t normally caused by sun bathing. It’s one of the areas not related to skin exposure, which is why it’s so important to do self-exams and get checked annually by your derm.

Nose:  The nose is apparently one of the most common places to develop skin cancer. According to Casal, 30 percent of skin cancers arises on the nose mainly due to constant sun exposure. “These kinds are usually not pigmented,” she says. “They usually appear like a flaky, dry patch that won’t go away.” So if it’s lingered for more than a few weeks, pay your derm a visit. Casal recommends using sunscreen as well as wearing hats for preventive measures.

Scalp: The scalp is one of the most difficult areas to detect skin cancer, which is what inspired the Heads Up program enlisting dermatologists to host educational events for beauty professionals like hairdressers, massage therapists, and aestheticians to teach them about skin cancer and encourages clients to get a yearly skin exam by a derm. The most effective way to prevent this is to wear hats while out in the sun.

Ears: Most wouldn’t think to slather sunscreen on or behind our ears, but it’s actually a common spot for cancer. “Skin cancer can occur in any part of the ear but is more common in the dorsum or superior part,” says Casal. “Wear a wide brimmed hat (in addition to applying sunscreen) for those with sensitive skin and who tend to burn easily on the ears,” Bowes says.

Lips: When it comes to skin cancer, the lips are often overlooked. But you can definitely develop cancer here. The most common kind is squamous cell carcinoma. “The lower lip is approximately 12 times more likely to be affected than the upper lip due to more sun exposure,” says Casal who recommends applying a lip balm that contains sun protection.

Palms of hands, soles of feet, nails, and mouth: “There is a form of melanoma acrolentiginous that arises on the palms, soles, under the nails, and even in the mouth,” Casal says. “This form of melanoma can appear as an enlarged discolored spot. When it appears under the nail, it may start as a long dark band or streak on a finger or toe nail. This is another form of melanoma that’s not linked to sun exposure.” It’s also more often seen within the Hispanic and black population. Look for hand creams and foot creams that contain sunscreen protection.