For a decade, Maria Sylvia had a tan streak on her nail. Doctors told her it was a mole and nothing to worry about. After a colleague urged her to get it examined again, Sylvia learned it was a rare skin cancer, called subungual melanoma, and shared her experience on TikTok.
“This whole thing started with me just trying to cope with my trauma with dark humor,” Sylvia, 25, an analyst in Alexandria, Virginia, told TODAY. “When I saw that this was garnering an insane amount of attention I thought people should know more about this.”
A subungual melanoma is a skin cancer that form in the finger or toe nailbeds.
“It’s a pretty rare subtype. However because of that it could be missed and could go on for years without being recognized,” Dr. Adam Friedman, chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Science, who was not Sylvia’s doctor, told TODAY. “It can be certainly aggressive if not caught — that’s the rule of all melanomas.”
While subungual melanomas don’t frequently occur, nail discoloration is quite common. Fungal infections, bruises and moles can cause streaks on both finger and toe nails. People who work with heavy machinery, such as construction workers, often have multiple streaks in their nails.
“Vibrations can stimulate pigment production. That trauma can start stimulating the production,” Friedman explained. “The difference here is you would ... see multiple nail streaks. There shouldn’t be just one.”