ABC7 anchor Rachel Brown recounts skin-cancer scare after noticing something unusual under fingernail

Right before nail salons shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, ABC7 anchor Rachel Brown got a gel manicure.

But when her nail technician removed her color, Brown said, "I noticed a vertical streak on my finger, a dark line and I asked her to tell me what she thought it was. And she said, 'Sometimes it can be a sign of melanoma.'"

Such bands under the nail are usually benign, but common in women of color. Brown made an appointment with dermatologists Dr. Neda Black and Dr. Han Lee at Comprehensive Dermatology Center of Pasadena.

"The thing that we worry about in someone of Rachel's ethnic background and really anybody is subungual melanoma, which is a very dangerous form of that cancer," Black said.

The location in Brown's nail bed posed a challenge.

Lee said, "In order to do that biopsy, it's a little bit more involved. You actually have to take the nail plate off and biopsy the nail matrix."

Brown said, "To think that I had skin cancer was just scary -- incredibly scary."

Studies show spacing out gel manicures to two weeks or more does not raise your skin cancer risk. But, doctors advise wearing sunscreen. But Brown did wonder if LED lights or ultraviolet exposure had anything to do with it.

Black said, "Most subungual melanomas aren't related to UV exposure at all.

Lee said genetics play more of a role.

"The acral lentiginous melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer in African Americans," she said.

Brown said, "Especially in the Black community, skin cancer is not top-of-mind necessarily."

Two weeks after her biopsy, she got the results.

"I found out I was cancer free which was a huge relief," Brown said.

She posted her story on social media -- to help other women and to make sure they take a close look at their own nails.

"If you see something that concerns you, better safe than sorry," Brown said, "Talk to a doctor."

Shortly after the scare, Brown's fiancé proposed.

"On the day of the engagement, I had a huge Band-Aid on my finger. But it was fine," she laughed.

A happy ending indeed.
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