Skin cancer symptoms: The sign in your nails you could have the deadly disease

Skin cancer may be hiding underneath your nails, as well as around them. What’s the sign to look out for that you may have the health condition?

Nurse practitioner Sarah Walker stated: “Often, nail melanomas [are] misdiagnosed as trauma to the nail.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation confirms: “Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer.”

Walker continued: “Or [melanomas] go undiagnosed for several years because of frequent nail polish use.”


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So, what’s the sign in your nails that you may have skin cancer?

“A dark vertical band in the nail could be a nail melanoma or subungual melanoma,” Walker confirmed.

She explained: “Subungual hematomas tend to have a more irregular pattern of color and a new healthy nail will begin to grow in eventually.”

Of course, trauma to the nail can cause a bruise to appear – one that may be vertical.

However, if there’s no memory as to how a dark, vertical line would appear on the nail, then pay attention.

It could be a sign of skin cancer – whether it shows up in the fingernails or toenails.

DermNet NZ – a New Zealand-based clinical resource website about dermatology and skin condition – identifies three nail melanomas.

It states subungual melanoma originates from the nail matrix, whereas ungual melanoma comes from the nail plate.

Periungual melanoma, on the other hand, comes from the skin beside the nail plate.

Surprisingly, DermNet NZ adds that it’s “not thought to be due to sun exposure”.

And that “trauma may be a factor, accounting for the greater incidence in the great toe and thumb”.

Subungual melanoma

This form of nail skin cancer starts off as “a pigmented band visible the length of the nail plate”.


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Over weeks to months, DermNet NZ states the pigment band can become wider, more irregular in colour – turning shades of brown – and may bleed.

To confirm a diagnosis of melanoma, a biopsy taken by a medical professional will need to be done.

If cancer is detected, the melanoma must be removed surgically.

And this could result in the end of the finger or toe being amputated.

Nail melanomas are extremely rare, but Cancer Research states there are around 16,200 new skin cancer cases in the UK every year.

The charity adds that the incidence rates for melanoma skin cancer are highest in people aged 85 to 89 years old.

And, thankfully, the charity predicts that nine in 10 people diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in England survive their disease for 10 years or more.

For more information on skin cancer, visit Cancer Research UK.

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