The signs of deadly cancer on your nails you should never ignore

The signs of deadly cancer on your nails you should never ignore

May 5, 2022

CHANGES in your finger nails can be down to a number of issues and while they are usually nothing to worry about – they could be deadly.

Subungual melanoma is a rare type of skin cancer that occurs in the skin under your nails.


One doctor previously warned that there's a key sign you can pick up on which indicates you might have the illness.

Dr Raj Karan said a dark streak in your nail could be caused by things such as infections, medication side effects, trauma and blood clots.

“And one particular cause is a rare type of skin cancer called a melanoma", he said.

He explained that subungual melanoma is rare and happens in around one per cent of all melanoma cases.

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People may wrongly believe they just have bruising of the nail, or not even notice a change at all.

The nail may have a black or brown streak, separate from the nail bed, bleed, thin or crack, or have a bruise that doesn’t go away despite the nail growing.

The skin around the nail may also darken.

Dr Karan said these marks aren't always a sign of cancer and that they are also present in people with darker skin.

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Data shows that the marks have been seen in 75 per cent of African, 25 per cent of Chinese and 10 per cent of Japanese people who have previously been diagnoses with melanoma.

Typically, older people are more at risk, with women in their 60s and men in their 70s mainly being affected.

However, we previously reported how one woman in her 40s, had to have her finger amputated after she discovered a brown strip on her nail.

It's important that if you are worried, you should always see your GP – as subungual melanoma may not always present with a streak on the nail.

So it's important that you look out for other signs on the nails and toes that could indicate illness.

These include:

  • changing colour
  • thinning
  • redness and swelling
  • nails lifting from the nail bed
  • pitting
  • grooves or gaps
  • curvature
  • thick and overgrown

How is subungual melanoma treated?

Spotting melanoma early on can help specialists treat it fast.

Usually the abnormal tissue will be removed so that medics can perform a biopsy.

This will be able to identify if the affected area is cancerous.

In some cases patients may also need to have a form of radiotherapy, this is often done via X-rays.

In cases of metastatic melanoma immunotherapy will usually be offered.

This is when cancer spreads to other parts of the body and this form of treatment helps the body's immune system fight it off.

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin.

The nails can reveal a lot about a person’s health, as can the fingers.

For example, clubbed nails – when the nails become larger and curve around the fingertips – could be a sign of lung cancer.

It’s a sign that there is a lack of oxygen in the body, and could also be a result of a lung abscess or birth heart disease.

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Horizontal ridges across the nails, known as Beau’s lines, could indicate kidney problems, thyroid problems, or even mumps.

If you experience yellow or green looking nails, it could be a fungal infection, which if frequent, can be an early sign of diabetes.

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