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Former Miss Illinois Karolina Jasko Reveals Unexpected Way Melanoma Can Hide on Your Nail

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Melanoma can hide in places you might never suspect, as one woman found out during an appointment at a nail salon.

Karolina Jasko, a 21-year-old college student and former Miss Illinois, recently opened up about the melanoma that was found on her thumbnail, which she became aware of while getting her acrylic nails removed in 2016. The technician showed her a thin, straight, vertical purplish line down her nail.

In the photo below, you can see the purple line just below the white nail polish, above the cuticle:

Jasko told The Today Show on Wednesday that she became concerned about her finger a week later after the nail appeared to be swollen and infected. Her doctor referred her to a dermatologist, who had her undergo a biopsy in which the part of the nail with the line was removed. It was in fact melanoma, and Jasko later went back to have her entire nail removed. She also had a skin graft from her groin area to cover her thumb.

“They still don’t know where the infection came from. They said that was like a sign from God… because if I would have waited longer and not come in with that, it could have been possible the melanoma would have spread,” Jasko said.

Jasko has a family history of melanoma, but some experts have also raised concerns about the risks of gel manicures, which Jasko had frequently before her cancer diagnosis. In a gel manicure, special polish is applied to nails, then dried under a UV light. Dermatologist Chris Adigun told Self research into the risk of cancer from gel manicure UV lamps isn’t conclusive, though the overall risks of UVA exposure in general (especially among those who are particularly UV-sensitive) are well-documented.

“Do we have data that this causes cancer? No. But do we know that UVA exposure causes cancer? Yes,” Adigun said.

Subungual melanoma, or melanoma of the nails, includes symptoms like the vertical stripe Jasko noticed, dark nail pigmentation that expands to the skin, brittle or cracked nails, and bleeding where the pigmentation is. It is not typically believed to be linked to sun exposure. However, if you are interested in getting gel manicures, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing fingerless gloves with an ultraviolet protection factor of 50 during the manicure. If you’re doing your nails at home, make sure you are using a polish designed for the curing lamp you have, and be sure to use the lamp for the correct amount of time.

Treating melanoma and other skin cancers as early as possible is crucial, so it’s important to be able to recognize the signs. Check out these stories that reveal other ways cancer can appear:

Originally published: May 7, 2019
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