Stripe Under Fingernails Could Be Sign of Cancer, Doctor Warns

May 28, 2019 Updated: May 28, 2019

A light brown stripe on one’s fingernail shouldn’t be taken lightly, as one woman’s story shows.

“There was a brown line across my nail for, I would say, a few years,” Julie, a New York woman who didn’t give her last name, told CBS New York about the line across her nail.

She added, “It started as a light line and then it eventually started getting wider and the middle of it started to get really black.”

Julie was later diagnosed with malignant melanoma of the nail bed by Dr. Dana Stern, a specialist.

“Just like you have moles on your skin you can have a mole on your nail matrix which is where the nail grows from,” CBS quoted Stern as saying.

The patient, according to the report, eventually needed surgery to remove her nail and the tissue.

“Just be proud that you’re a survivor,” Julie said, adding that she covered up her nail but no longer has to.

Stern said that people should exercise caution when looking at anomalies near the nail bed.

“People will sometimes develop an early melanoma and think it’s an injury and they don’t even really realize they’re supposed to go to their dermatologist,” the doctor said.

The doctor noted that there’s no link between cancer of the nail bed, including subungual melanoma, to cosmetic procedures.

Another woman shared a photo of a line on her nail (Facebook)

Jean Skinner, who lives in Sussex, England, also issued a warning after a client came into her nail salon with a black line across her nail.

Skinner called on the woman to visit a doctor. The woman then found out that she had melanoma, The Independent reported.

“This is melanoma!!!” Skinner wrote. “I did not want to frighten her but I told her she needed to see her doctor immediately! She called me today to tell me that yes it was a very aggressive melanoma that has already spread to her lymph nodes!! Her prognosis is not good!”

According to Medical News Today, people “may be less likely to suspect melanoma in other areas of the skin where it can occur. This includes melanoma under the fingernails, which is known as subungual melanoma.”

“This type of melanoma often resembles normal bruising of the nails and may be difficult to identify,” according to the website. “There are different types of nail-related melanoma. Subungual melanoma comes from the nail matrix, which is where keratin originates. Other nail-related cancers include ungula melanoma, which occurs underneath the nail plate, and periungual melanoma, which comes from the skin next to the nail plate.”

And according to the official NHS guidelines, “dark stripes running down the nails (linear melanonychia) are fairly common in black people over 20 years of age, and in most cases it’s perfectly normal.”

“Subungual melanoma usually only affects one nail,” the NHS explains on its website. “It will also cause the stripe to change in appearance – for example, it may become wider or darker over time and the pigmentation may also affect the surrounding skin (the nail fold).”