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Fingernails and toenails can show signs of health problems, doctors say

Posted at 10:40 PM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-10 01:40:25-04

Few of us worry about our nails beyond a manicure every now and then, but they can actually show signs of some serious health problems, including the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

"It can be anything from a spot, to a stripe, to the whole nail bed being discolored," said Dr. Aaron Chevinsky, a surgical oncologist with Aurora Healthcare.

Dr. Chevinsky is warning people about melanoma growing under your nails and is reminding future surgeons to always check their patients' hands and feet for cancer.

"I see everyone looking at their hands to check, why? Because often times melanoma of the fingers and the toes are caught late," said Dr. Chevinsky.

That could mean it's already spread and there is less doctors can do.

"Both hands and feet," Dr. Chevinsky said. "We've seen several of them this year already."

When Peggy Waters' thumbnail split open, she didn't think much of it.

"I just put a bandaid down around it to pull the two sides together," said Waters.

Fast forward a year-and-a-half and she was being treated for melanoma under her nail. Studies are looking to connect skin cancer to those UV lights used during gel manicures. However Dr. Chevinsky points out this exposure is UV-A and not UV-B light, which causes sunburns.

There are ways to protect yourself.

"Either putting a sunblock on your hands or getting gloves that are UV protected and just cut off the tips," said Dr. Chevinsky.

Waters says she'll never wait again if she sees an issue with her nails.

"If I see something strange that's happening on my skin, I get it checked immediately," said Waters.