Photo: Prostock-Studio/Getty Images
A 57-year-old woman had her pinky toe amputated after a dark spot she thought was a mole turned out to be skin cancer, TODAY reported.
Yvonne Basil, of Dallas, Texas, said she had noticed the spot under the nail of her pinky toe months before, and wasn't concerned even when it grew bigger and spread.
"My mindset was basically that it couldn't happen to me. I just thought my skin is dark enough and the sun can't harm it," she told TODAY.
But a dermatologist expressed concern that it may be melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, and ordered a biopsy. Basil had made the appointment to use up funds left in her flexible spending account. A week later, her toe was amputated to prevent the cancer from spreading.
"I can't stress it enough, especially people of color, to take this seriously. It's no joke," she said. "You think it won't happen to you, which is what I thought, too. But it can definitely happen."
It's a Myth That People of Color Don't Get Skin Cancer, & Early Detection Is Key
While people of color are less likely to develop melanoma, they are four times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease and 1.5 times more likely to die of it, according to the Melanoma Research Alliance.
People of color are also more likely to have melanoma on the extremities like hands and feet, a rarer but more aggressive type of skin cancer, the Melanoma Research Alliance reports.
"Patients say, 'I have dark skin, I don't have to worry about melanoma.' This answer is no, this is exactly the type of melanoma we worry about," Dr. Vishal Patel, assistant professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, told TODAY.
When spotted early, skin cancer is often treatable, including melanoma, according to Cleveland Clinic.
However, it can be difficult to spot. Doing a thorough check involves scanning your whole body — including the toenails and bottoms of the feet — and even then, you might need an expert eye in case you miss something, Insider's Hilary Brueck reported.
A few cues that a skin mark may be suspicious include if it is asymmetrical, discolored compared to the surrounding skin and other moles, and changes over time.
It can also appear as a streak on fingernails or toenails, an uncommon type of cancer in the nail bed called subungual melanoma.
No one sign is proof of cancer, but since cancer cells develop irregularly, a patch of skin that isn't uniform may be a red flag, and worth getting checked out.
Experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend getting checked out at least once a year.