Living in Australia with our harsh sun, we get it drilled into us from childhood to “slip slop slap” – slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat – to prevent our risk of skin cancer through exposure to UV.
We even know that if we see any dodgy-looking moles, we should get them checked out as soon as possible. But one thing that isn’t talked about as much as moles and weird skin things is that we can get skin cancer in places that we don’t think of as being our skin, or where we haven’t had any exposure to sun.
The most common types of skin cancer are basal and squamous cell cancers, that usually develop on sun-exposed skin areas like our face, arms, backs, necks, ears, lips and hands.
The deadly melanoma, however, which is less common, can start on nearly any part of the body, whether it’s been exposed to the sun or not.
Here are some of the places you can get skin cancer you might not have ever considered.
Although they are such a small area on the human body, an estimated five to ten per cent of skin cancers appear on the eyelids. Apart from being deadly, skin cancer on the eyelids can cause significant tissue damage and blindness, and can spread into the nasal and orbital cavities.
2. Irises of the eyes
Did you know that you can actually get freckles in your eyes? The same sun damage that causes freckles in your irises can cause other issues, like melanomas. While we think of skin cancer as being something that affects skin, it can affect any area of the body exposed to the sun.
You need to be vigilant about protecting your eyes and using UV-blocking sunglasses, since you cannot coat your eyeballs in sunscreen. If you notice any new spots of colour in your irises, see a doctor asap.
3. Bottoms of your feet
You have an increased risk of getting skin cancer on the bottoms of your feet if you walk around barefoot often or lie in the sun with them exposed. If you’re wearing sandals or thongs, it’s important to put sunscreen on the bottoms of your feet as well as the tops.
While you can’t actually get skin cancer on your nails, sun damage can penetrate through the nail to the skin underneath. The rise in popularity of gel manicures that use UV lights to set the gel coating have also seen a rise in cancers in fingers and toes among those who use them, essentially because they are mini tanning beds for nails.
5. Inside your mouth
It’s not the first place you’d think to look for skin cancer, but the inside of your mouth is still skin, so of course you can get it there. Usually, dentists will check for oral cancers during a check up, but you can also keep an eye out for strange symptoms yourself. If you have sores lasting longer than two weeks, you should get them examined.
6. On your genitals
7. In your ear canal
8. In your anus
9. Between your toes
10. Under tattoos
If you’ve got tatts, you probably want to show them off, which means they’re getting heaps of exposure to the sun. A popular urban myth is that tattoos act as a sunscreen. Not only is this incorrect, some ink colours, particularly white, can intensify sun damage. Tattoos can also mask common symptoms of skin cancer because you don’t see them under the artwork.
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice.*
*SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.