Skin Cancer on the Hand: A Dermatologist Answers Your Questions

Merely Me Health Guide September 29, 2011
  • One of the questions many people have about skin cancer is where it can develop on the body. Wherever you have skin is where skin cancer may occur. The most common sites on the body for skin cancer to develop are those areas which have been exposed to ultra-violet light either from the sun or tanning beds. These areas may include the face, scalp, neck, trunk and limbs. However, some skin cancers are found in places of the body you might not expect. In this post we are going to discuss some of the uncommon sites of the body (such as the palms of the hand) which can develop skin cancer.

     

    We have called upon the expertise of Doctor Lawrence Green, a practicing dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington DC to discuss this topic.


    To find out more about Dr. Green please visit his website: Aesthetics, Skin Care, and Dermasurgery.

     

    Member Kajal asks: Can you get skin cancer on the palm of your hand?

     

    Dr. Green:

     

    Yes, skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body. It is less common on the palm, but all different types of skin cancer could still be found there. Skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma  are usually found on sun exposed areas of the skin that is thinner than the palm, such as the face, neck, shoulders/chest, arms, back of the hands, and legs. Squamous cell cancers are derived from skin cells and basal cell carcinomas are derived from hair follicle cells in the skin. They are red sores that slowly get bigger over a number of months and just don't heal. That said, basal cell and squamous cell cancers can occur on the palm in rare instances. For example, squamous cell carcinomas can occur on the palms in arsenic poisoning.

     

    Skin cancers called melanomas can occur anywhere on the body as well, but again sun exposed sites are more common. But, unlike with other types of skin cancer, melanoma cancers have a more genetic component and arise from pigmented cells called melanocytes that naturally occur in the skin, eyes, and brain. I have seen melanoma cancers occur on breasts (that have never been sun exposed) and under fingernails.

     

    Melanomas are usually dark looking mole-like spots that are irregular in shape and color. These cancers do have a propensity to spread throughout the body (metastasize) if not removed in early stages.

     

    Thank you Dr. Green for you answer!

     

    In addition here are some images of what skin cancer can look like on the hands:

     

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma on the back of the hand (Medline Plus)

    Melanoma on the palm of the hand (Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA)

    Melanoma underneath the fingernail (Medscape)

     

    It is important to note that if you have darker skin melanomas may be more common on skin where the pigment is lighter such as the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. If you have any suspicious lesions or growths on these areas of your body (or anywhere else for that matter) you need to see your doctor to get these checked out promptly.

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    There is a type of melanoma called Acral Lentiginous Melanoma which is more common for people with dark skin. This type of melanoma can occur on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and female genitals as well as underneath toenails and fingernails.

     

    Melanoma which develops under the nail beds may appear as a dark longitudinal band running the length of the nail. It may be a thin strip or take up a wide area of the nail. This type of melanoma may be overlooked because many people with dark skin may have benign pigmentation on their nail beds.

     

    My motto has always been: When in doubt get it checked out!

     

    For more information about skin cancer diagnosis and treatment please refer to our Skin Cancer Resource Page.