Most people assume melanoma only shows up on areas of sun-exposed skin, but that’s not always the case. “It can show up anywhere on the body,” Erik Dunki-Jacobs MD, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute explains.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, caused by changes in cells and melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment called melanin (melanin is responsible for skin and hair color).
It can appear on normal skin, or may begin as a mole or other area that has changed in appearance. Some moles that are present at birth may develop into melanomas.
While these cases are rare, melanomas can also appear in:
- The mouth
- The iris of the eye or retina at the back of the eye
- The vagina
- Urinary tract
- Small Intestine
“African Americans, even though they’re at a low risk for getting melanoma, theirs typically shows up on the soles of their feet or the palms of their hands,” Dr. Dunki-Jacobs points out. Hidden melanomas are more common in people with darker skin.
The Bottom Line
Whether you fall into a high-risk category for developing melanoma, Dr. Dunki-Jacobs stresses two things to his patients: prevention and early detection. "If you're concerned about it, it's better to go and see a doctor and have them tell you it's benign, than it is to not see a doctor and find out later that it was melanoma."