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The Deadly Skin Cancer Most Of Us Don't Even Know Exists

A beauty queen thought the dark mark on her thumb was just a small bruise but it turned out to be a deadly melanoma.

Karolina Jasko has a family history of skin cancer and has always paid attention to changes to her skin, but melanoma still managed to sneak up on her in a place she never thought to look: her nails.

Jasko, 21, first became aware of the unusual spot in 2016 during her regular nail appointment.

Her technician pointed out a black vertical line on her right thumbnail which appeared to be little more than a bruise. Jasko didn't think anything of it.

Weeks later her nail became infected and she went to see her doctor who, surprisingly, wasn't concerned about the infection but was worried about the bruise.

Fast-forward 24 hours and Jasko had seen a dermatologist and had a biopsy which confirmed she had nail melanoma -- known as subungual melanoma -- the rarest sub-types of skin cancer.

“It was overwhelming because everything happened so quick,” Jasko told Today. “It was so scary".

Doctors still don't know what caused the infection IMAGE: Facebook

While the infection was unrelated, it could have helped save her life.

“...If I would have waited longer and not come in with that, it could have been possible the melanoma would have spread,” Jasko said

Thankfully, doctors were able to remove all of the cancer without amputating her finger or hand, but she did lose her nail in the process, a skin graft was used to cover the area her nail usually sits.

Doctors used skin from her groin to cover the area where her nail used to sit. IMAGE: Karolina Jasko via Facebook

Some experts have suggested that the UV lights used to set gel polish and acrylic nails, like those Jasko applied for years, could be responsible for a growing number of cancer cases, but that hasn't been confirmed.

READ MORE: You May Want To Look At How Much Sunscreen You're Using

READ MORE: Redheads With Multiple Moles Warned Of High Risk Of Melanoma Following New Research

Australia is currently the melanoma capital of the world, while two in three Aussies are expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.

But this particular type isn't often spoken about, it's hard to diagnose because of the similarities to a bruise or fungal infection and many are unaware it even exists.

Image: Australian Cancer Atlas.

Symptoms include a vertical band that's a different colour than the nail, dark pigmentation and bleeding.

To limit risk, the advice is to slather on sunscreen every time you walk out the door to ensure you're protected. That includes coating the hands and feet.

"Use a teaspoon on each limb, one for your back, one for the front, a teaspoon for your face and neck area," Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia said.

"Apply it after the shower -- and be smart about it, if you want to use body moisturiser, then get a sunscreen with moisturiser in it instead and that will help you cut your risk.