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Karolina Jasko, Miss Illinois 2018, was a senior in high school when a trip to the nail salon led to a melanoma diagnosis. While getting her nails done the manicurist pointed out a black line on her thumbnail. When the thumb began to swell a few weeks later, Karolina visited her doctor who sent her to get a biopsy. The result was a melanoma diagnosis.
Karolina shares with The Doctors she had to undergo four surgeries to remove the cancer. The black line was actually a mole, and if she had waited any longer, the cancer could have spread throughout her body, potentially putting her life in danger. Karolina initially thought skin cancer is only due to family history or tanning beds but that is not the case, and this is the message she wants to spread.
Karolina had to have her entire nail bed and nail matrix removed, which is better than what was expected. She initially was told by doctors that they’d have to amputate her thumb.
Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra thinks awareness around this is very important; people often neglect to check their nails for signs of skin cancer. She also points out if you get gel or acrylic nails, you could be putting yourself at risk for skin cancer by using the ultraviolet drying lights. If you do choose to get these nail treatments done, Dr. Batra recommends putting an SPF 30 (preferably a broad-spectrum, zinc-based product) onto your hands in advance or wearing gloves with the tips removed so that just your nails are in the light.
Dr. Batra explains the proper term for what Karolina had was a subungual melanoma, a malignant tumor, which is curable but if caught too late could be deadly. She notes it can frequently occur in people of color and they need to be aware if discoloration occurs, it has to be checked out. Subungual melanoma is actually what killed the African American musician Bob Marley!
Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says the takeaway from this is that if you see anything unusual on your body such as pigmented lesions that are changing, you have to get it diagnosed. From there, the level and depth of the melanoma will determine the treatment.
Karolina shares she does still get her nails done but sticks to regular manicures only, and avoids using any of the UV light dryers!