5 Unexpected Places to Check for Skin Cancer

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on July 11, 2021
  • Young girl with red hair and freckles
    Beyond the Easy-to-See Places
    When you think “skin cancer” you may automatically think of sun exposure and sun damage. Most skin cancer cases are indeed related to chronic or intense exposure to ultraviolet light. But this isn’t so in every case. Other factors influence your risk of skin cancer, including race, genetics, number of moles, immune system function, and exposure to radiation and certain medications and substances. As a result, skin cancer can occur in places you wouldn’t expect.  
  • Mans ear
    1. Behind the Ears
    The ear is the third most common body site to find basal cell skin cancer. And while mom always reminded you to wash behind your ears, the better advice is to look behind your ears. A recent study found that the back of the ear was the second most common site on the ear for skin cancer to occur. So grab a mirror or ask someone to help you check this unexpected skin cancer site.
  • womans-torso
    2. Between the Buttocks
    Believe it or not: skin cancer can occur between the buttocks. In addition to the common types of skin cancer—basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma—other less common forms can occur in this area. So get familiar with your entire body, even if it requires a hand-held mirror. And don’t ignore symptoms, such as a rash between your buttocks. Uncommon forms of skin cancer can start that way.
  • smiling-portrait-of-african-american-woman
    3. On Mucous Membranes
    Both squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma can occur on the body’s mucous membranes. This includes the lips, inside of the mouth, nasal passages, and genital tissues. Squamous cell carcinoma can look like an open sore, a crusty patch, or a raised growth that may bleed. And while anyone can get melanoma in these areas, it most frequently affects the mucous membranes of people with more darkly pigmented skin.
  • Hammer toe
    4. Between the Toes
    If you like pedicures, the area between your toes may be familiar to you. If you don’t regularly look between your toes, you should. And not just to clean them. You need to learn what is normal for you so you can recognize changes. Be on the lookout for dark spots, nonhealing sores, or other lesions in this area that is usually clear of skin flaws.
  • Man with feet on desk
    5. On the Soles of Feet, Palms of Hand, and Nail Beds
    Melanoma occurring on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hand has a formal name—acral lentiginous melanoma. This name also includes melanoma of the mucous membranes and nail beds. Although melanoma occurs more frequently in Caucasians than dark-skinned people, when dark-skinned people do get melanoma, most cases are acral lentiginous melanoma. And 35-90% occur on the plantar—or sole—surface of the foot.
5 Unexpected Places to Check for Skin Cancer
  1. What You Need to Know about Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers: Risk Factors. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin/page5
  2. The Ears: A High-Rick Area for Skin Cancer. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma/the-ears-a-high-risk-area-for...
  3. Skin Cancer: Uncover That Mole. MD Anderson Cancer Center. http://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/issues/2010-may/spotpatrol.html
  4. How Are Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers Diagnosed? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-basalandsquamouscell/detailedguide/skin-cancer-basal-and-squ...
  5. What Is Skin Cancer? American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/whatis.html
  6. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/squamous-cell-carcinoma
  7. Plantar Melanoma. New York University: Surgical Oncology. http://surgery.med.nyu.edu/oncology/patient-care/melanoma/special-situations/plantar-melanoma
  8. Rose LC. Recognizing Neoplastic Skin Lesions: A Photo Guide. Am Fam Physician. 1998 Sep 15;58(4):873-884. http://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0915/p873.html
  9. How to Perform a Self-Exam. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-check-my-skin/how-to-perform-...
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 11
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.