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Changes on the nails: An early warning system for cancer?


Highlights: Changes on the nails: An early warning system for cancer?. Changes on and around the nails are a sign of disease. describes which symptoms are harmless and which are alarming. Even if they are not related to disease, the nails can provide clues about what the body is missing. For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or see for details. In the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

Status: 07.12.2023, 13:31 PM

By: Nico Reiter

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Discoloration and deformity on the fingernails can be more than just cosmetic blemishes. They could indicate serious illnesses, including cancer.

Munich – Spots or grooves on the fingernails reveal a lot about the state of health. Often they express a lack of vitamins or trace elements. This is usually easy to fix. But even more serious diseases could already be visible on the nails. Some cancers cause changes in the appearance of the nails. Therefore, early detection can be life-saving in this case.

Recognising symptoms of the disease on the fingernails

In particular, sudden changes in the nail should be taken seriously. These are the most common nail diseases:

  • Change of shape
  • Change of color
  • Modification of the surface
  • Change in the Nail Moon

Source: MSD Manual

Watch glass nails as a sign of lung disease

Watch glass nails are fingernails that are round and curved outwards. This form can be traced back to a chronic lack of oxygen in the tissue. As a result, blood flow to the fingers is impaired and the normal growth of the nail is prevented. The effect can occur on both fingernails and toenails. However, the shape of the nail can also only be genetically determined.


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Watch glass nails are a sign of oxygen deprivation. © Pond5 Images/IMAGO

Watch glass nails are most often associated with lung diseases such as lung cancer, as the medical journal informs. This is one of the most common cancers in Germany. However, other diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema and tuberculosis or, in rare cases, heart disease can also lead to oxygen deprivation. In any case, a sudden change should be medically clarified.

Discoloration as a sign of skin cancer

Various discolorations can also occur on the nail. White spots and longitudinal grooves are usually harmless. However, according to the MSD Manual, dark brown or black discoloration can indicate skin cancer in the worst case. They can be both nodular or flat. In particular, a thin, black stripe extending across the nail could indicate a tumor and should be medically evaluated.

A dark, streaked discoloration may indicate © skin cancer Rytis Bernotas/Imago

If the nails are discolored blue-red in places, this may indicate an injury such as a bruise under the nail bed. If a dark discoloration has been present for a long time, it may be a birthmark.

Editor's Note

This article only contains general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. It is in no way a substitute for a visit to the doctor. Individual questions about clinical pictures may not be answered by our editorial team.

Not all nail changes indicate a disease

Not all changes on and around the nails are a sign of disease. describes which symptoms are harmless and which are alarming. Even if they are not related to disease, the nails can provide clues about what the body is missing. Not only the appearance of the nails, but also that of the nasal secretions, can give an indication of health. In case of doubt, medical advice should be sought, especially in the case of sudden and long-lasting changes in the nail image.

SymptomPossible causes
White spotsDamage to the root of the nail
Longitudinal groovesDehydration, age
Transverse groovesPast injuries
Spoon nailsHeart, lung, or liver disease
Watch glass nailsNutrient deficiencies, infections
DiscolorationsSmoking, nail fungus, anaemia, heart and lung diseases
Dark spotsBruising, melanoma, psoriasis

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to optimize at their own discretion. All information has been carefully verified.

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-12-07

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