How Black Lines on Your Nails May Signal Cancer

January 9, 2018
Black lines in your nails are considered normal for people over the age of 20. However, if you have any unusual mark it’s best to see a specialist.

Do you visit the nail salon from time to time? Have you noticed any black lines on your nails recently? Jean Skinner works as an aesthetician in Uckfield, East Sussex, UK. A little while ago, she shared her story about a black line on her nail. This story has made more than one person afraid.

Everything started when one of her clients asked her to put a dark polish on their nails to cover a black line that was going across them.

However, Skinner recommended that they go to the doctor. This is because, in some cases, cancer symptoms show up in small symptoms like black lines on your nails.

The diagnosis confirmed that the person had ungual melanoma. This is a form of skin cancer.

Possible causes for black lines on your nails

These kinds of dark-blueish spots or versions of the black line don’t only appear on your nails. The size, color, and form of your moles change as well.

Of course, a dark spot or a black line isn’t always related to cancer. These are some situations where it’s normal for them to appear:

  • Taking medicines: there are medicines that have dark pigmentation of the nails as one of their side effects. This happens after several days of taking the medication.
  • During pregnancy: It’s possible for brown spots to appear on your nails during pregnancy. But, they don’t have severe consequences.
  • Infections: The presence of fungus in your nails changes their color.
  • Bruises: When there’s a mixture of brown with red points, it’s probably due to some kind of impact.

Read also:

5 Tricks to Eliminate Nail Fungus & Strengthen Nails

When should I worry?

Even though it’s not common, ungual melanoma can appear in children.

The width of the black line is larger than a sixteenth of an inch, and it’s not just one color. It has different tones of brown in the same line.

The change happens over time. And, the skin around the nail is also a dark color.

In most cases, ungual melanoma doesn’t just affect one nail. However, there are other symptoms that can show up in certain areas of the body. These include your toes and your scalp.

How dangerous is it?

Cancer cell

Melanoma is considered to be the most aggressive tumor that affects your skin. This is because it spreads quickly to the rest of your organs. This includes organs that are far away like you small intestine, eyes, brain, and even your heart.


Doctor holding a patient's hand

There are different ways to treat melanoma in your skin. Everything depends on the state of the tumor and the patient’s physical conditions.

These are some of the treatments:

  • Radiotherapy: This method keeps the cancerous cells from growing. It’s a localized treatment. In other words, it only affects the area where the melanoma is found.
  • Surgery: This method is the most used one. For this treatment the tumor and the tissue found around it are removed. The goal is to keep the cancer from reproducing to areas around it.
  • Chemotherapy: This is used when the melanoma has spread to other parts of your body. The patient is given a combination of drugs. This includes a localized application.
  • Immunotherapy: the goal of this treatment is to increase your immune system’s strength.


Woman applying sunscreen

One of the largest causes of melanoma is a lack of care with sun exposure.

For factors related to your skin, you need to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don’t expose yourself to the sun during peak hours (from 12 noon to 4 pm).
  • Get used to using sunscreen everyday (Put it on half an hour before going out. You especially need it when you go to the pool or beach.)
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water. This is because the sun dehydrates your body. And, you need hydration to regulate your body temperature.
  • Avoid tanning. Exposure to UVA rays speeds up skin aging and increases the risk of skin cancer.
  • Pay attention to any irregularity. Don’t overlook the signals. Look at your nails and moles to see if there’s any change in their color or size.

Don’t forget to check out:

Non-toxic Natural Oils That Can Be Used as Sunscreen

Listen to your body!

It’s very common to confuse melanoma with benign diseases like nail fungus or common bruises. Because of this, patients get to advanced stages of the disease.

For your health, avoid self-diagnosis. See a dermatologist if you have any skin abnormality, especially if there are black lines on your nails. This is the only way to get a good diagnosis and a proper treatment.

Prevention reduces the mortality of the disease.

  • Jefferson, Julie, and Phoebe Rich. “Melanonychia.” Dermatology research and practice vol. 2012 (2012): 952186. doi:10.1155/2012/952186
  • Singal, Archana, and Rahul Arora. “Nail as a window of systemic diseases.” Indian dermatology online journal vol. 6,2 (2015): 67-74. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.153002