A nail artist is raising awareness of a lesser-known symptom of skin cancer which she discovered on a client’s nail.
The artist said she noticed one of her walk-in clients had a “straight dark vertical stripe” down her nail. Immediately she told her to get it checked, as she believed it could be melanoma.
Her client was later diagnosed with an aggressive form of the cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes. The nail artist said “her prognosis is not good”.
She urged people to pay attention to abnormalities on their nails.
“Odd changes in your nails can very likely be nothing to worry about,” she said. “But sometimes it is an indication of a very serious disease.”
A Facebook post recounting the story was published by Lisa Harrison Williams on 14 August - it is unclear whether Williams is the nail artist or whether she has shared the post from someone else.
Williams’ post, which has been shared more than 118,000 times, urges others to pay attention to changes in their fingernails and toenails and also the nails of loved ones.
“Early diagnosis can make all the difference in the world,” it reads.
Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK.
People with a skin change, new mole or a change in the shape or size of an existing mole should speak to their GP. According to Cancer Research UK, moles with three or more different shades of brown or black are “particularly likely to be melanoma”.
Cancer Research UK agrees that one lesser-known symptom is a dark area under the nail - especially if it is getting bigger and is not due to an injury.
Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, told HuffPost UK: “Linear melanonychia (linear pigmentation) in a single nail should be treated with caution as it can be a sign of melanoma within the nail.”
She added that it can “also occur commonly in dark-skinned individuals”.
Skin cancer rates are more than four times higher than they were in the late 1970’s in Great Britain - so vigilance is key.
Fiona Osgun, Cancer Research UK’s senior health information officer, urged people to be aware of their bodies and any potential changes.
“Melanoma skin cancer can cause different symptoms, including discolouration under a nail,” she told HuffPost UK. “By getting to know what’s normal for you – including any lumps, marks or niggles - you’re more likely to notice anything out of the ordinary.”
She advised people who notice any changes on their skin, “whether it’s a new mole or mark or something else that’s changed”, to get it checked by a GP.
“Most melanoma skin cancers develop on the chest, back or legs, occasionally they can appear as discolouration under nails or on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet,” she said.
“It probably won’t be skin cancer, but if it is, getting treatment started before it has time to spread can make a big difference.”