We are commonly told to monitor our bodies for any changes in the size, shape and colour of our moles. But did you know that not all skin cancers develop on your skin? Some can form in surprising places and often lack the symptoms you might usually look out for. Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early, so make sure you check these surprising places for symptoms.
1. In your eyes
Did you know you can get freckles in your eyes? Any part of your body that’s exposed to the sun is vulnerable to skin cancer and your eyes are one of the most exposed parts of your body, leaving them susceptible to significant sun damage, including melanoma. You can’t put sunscreen on your eyes, so make sure you wear a good pair of UV-blocking sunglasses.
2. Under your fingernails
Skin cancer can develop under your fingernails and toenails. When you visit a manicurist, the little UV lights that are used to seal the gel coat on your fingers are like miniature tanning beds. The UV radiation is very damaging to your skin, especially in concentrated doses. You can’t get skin cancer on your nails, but the damage penetrates through the nail to the skin underneath. So, it’s important to wear sunscreen on the tips of your fingers and toes, and examine your nail beds without polish on a regular basis.
3. Between your buttocks
Skin cancer can develop even in areas that aren’t exposed to the sun, such as on your buttocks. It’s important to check all the cracks and crevices on your body for new or changing moles, freckles or spots – even in areas that never see the sun.
4. On your genitals
While 90 per cent of skin cancers develop from excessive sun exposure, cancers like melanoma can spread to other places on your body, far from the point of origin. If you feel shy about consulting a doctor about that mole on your genitals – get over that quickly! If you wait too long to get it checked, you could lose important parts of your anatomy.
5. Inside your ears
If you feel a crustiness inside your ears that doesn’t go away after cleaning, it could be skin cancer. Many people think that all skin cancers appear as dark moles, but that isn’t the case. Skin cancers can be red, pearly, scaly, or have an ulceration with bleeding and crusting.
6. Under your tongue
Even though you probably don’t get much sun exposure inside your mouth, it is possible for skin cancers to grow in areas that are usually covered up, especially if the cancer has spread from other parts of your body. Your chances of developing cancer inside your mouth also increase if you smoke.
7. Under the hair on your scalp
The scalp is one of the most common places people get skin cancer, because the top of your head is most frequently exposed to the sun. Scalp skin cancers can be easy to miss because your hair does a good job of concealing them – so, if you notice anything itching, burning, growing or bleeding on your head, get it checked out. Hairdressers are often the first to notice moles on the scalp, so ask your hairdresser to give your head a quick check while they’re there.
8. Inside your anus
You can (rarely) develop skin cancer inside the anus and even inside the gastrointestinal tract. Look out for symptoms like blood in your faeces, pain, or persistent changes in your bowel movements.
9. Between your toes
People often forget to put sunscreen on their feet, and skin cancer can easily develop between your toes and on the soles of your feet. You should regularly check for any new spots in these areas.
10. Under your tattoo
There is a popular myth that tattoos act as sun protection, but that’s not true. Some ink colours, especially white ink, actually intensify sun damage. In addition, tattoo ink masks common symptoms of skin cancer such as moles, which can lead to a late diagnosis. So, make sure you pay attention to the skin beneath your ink, and apply sunscreen to tattooed skin to minimise fading and the risk of skin cancer.