GentleCure Blog

Identifying Skin Cancer on Nails

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Skin cancer under the nail will generally take one of three forms. Moreover, melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer that affects the nail bed, even though other types of skin cancer—like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma—are more common on the whole. Find out how to identify skin cancer on nails, and ask your doctor about any significant changes to the appearance of your nails.

How Does Skin Cancer Appear On Nails?

Skin cancer under the nail generally falls into one of three categories:

  • Acral lentiginous melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer on nails, looks like a dark band that runs from the nail matrix (where the nail begins to grow) outward toward the edge of your nail.
  • Nodular melanoma takes the form of a bump that may originate beneath the nail. Onycholysis — where your nail is pushed up and detached — is a common symptom.
  • Demoplastic melanoma, while most commonly found near the neck and head, can also be found on skin near the nails. This type of melanoma is named for the fibrous tissue that surrounds the tumor. It most often presents as a skin-colored or pink bump with a smooth or irregular surface, but it may take on darker shades.

Do You Need Surgery to Treat Skin Cancer on Nails?

In most cases, a form of Mohs surgery is required to treat skin cancer on or under nails. This surgery almost always requires the removal of the nail, and in the most advanced cases, some degree of amputation may also be required. However, when caught early, the aftereffects may be fairly minimal.

You may have noticed that the three most common types of skin cancer on the nail are all forms of melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer on the nail is very uncommon, but certainly not unheard of. Any slow-growing lesion near the nail should be investigated for basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is most likely to present with onycholysis and redness.

If you notice any significant changes in nail appearance, or if you notice a blemish that does not heal in a reasonable amount of time, ask your dermatologist to inspect the site. 

Consider IG-SRT for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment

Image Guided Superficial Radiotherapy  (IG-SRT) — the surgery-free alternative to Mohs — is often an option for those facing a non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis. Ask your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.