A black dot on the top of your toe could be melanoma, but does this mean it’s likely melanoma?

“This is a broad question, but a black dot on the top of the toe very commonly represents hemorrhage, or blood, underneath the skin from trauma,” says Emily de Golian, MD, a board certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology in Atlanta, GA.

“Such trauma to the skin is not typically significant enough to be recalled, and it can occur from ill-fitting shoes, bumping the foot against a solid object, dropping an object on the foot, or a wide variety of other sources,” continues Dr. de Golian.

“Hemorrhage very commonly appears black or very dark in color and cannot always be distinguished from pigment.

“If the area does not resolve over time or appears suspicious, a biopsy may be required to distinguish the source of the color change.”

Do not pick at the black dot.

“If it’s a hemorrhage, it will eventually resolve,” says Dr. de Golian.

“Be patient, as this may take weeks to months, especially on the foot, and ensure that potential sources of trauma like ill-fitting shoes are removed.

“Hemorrhage on the feet and toes is usually underneath the skin, so it doesn’t just fall off like a scab.

“Apparent black dots on the skin may also be caused by dark dried blood from superficial injuries that have bled.

“This crusting or scabbing will resolve on its own within days to weeks, and keeping it covered with Vaseline and a bandage will help speed up its resolution.”

If you’re flexible enough, you may want to bring your toe close to your eyes to inspect the black spot (yet one more reason to take up yoga!).

The black speck may be a birthmark that you’ve never noticed before and should be included in your monthly self-exams of your skin.

But if you swear it was never there before, and enough time has passed that you’ve ruled out a tiny scab or hemorrhage, then here are other things to consider:

“Additionally, sun spots, normal moles, atypical moles and melanoma may appear as brown to black spots on the toes and feet,” says Dr. de Golian.

A normal mole that grows on the top of a toe is no more likely to transform into melanoma than is a mole that develops on an arm or leg.

Melanoma can also develop in areas that have received little or even no sun exposure, such as the tops of the toes, the butt and even butt crack, the bottom of the feet, inside ears and even inside the belly button.

“If any irregularities are present, make an appointment with your dermatologist for an evaluation,” says Dr. de Golian.

Don’t wait for a new black dot or spot on your toe to get bigger. If it makes you feel uneasy, get it checked out.

Dr. de Golian focuses on the surgical treatment of skin cancer via Mohs surgery, cutaneous oncology (melanoma and basal cell carcinoma), surgical defect reconstruction and cosmetic dermatology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths