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Are All Skin Tones Susceptible to Skin Cancer? Yes…

by kelly / June, 20 2018 01:30

Photo of a young African American man with his son on his shoulders on the beach

There is a misconception that those with darker skin tones are not at risk of skin cancer. Unfortunately skin cancer doesn’t discriminate by race, ethnicity, age or gender, as the sun is color-blind. In fact, according to a 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology melanoma (a form of skin cancer) is more deadly in people of color.

Why the Misconception

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation darker skin does produce greater amounts of melanin (the protective pigment that gives skin and eyes their color) thus making it less susceptible to UV damage from the sun – but only to a certain extent.

Also as dermatologist Maritza I. Perez, MD describes, people forget that:

“ethnicity does not define skin type. It can represent a wide range of skin tones with a wide range of risks.”

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) insists skin cancer can affect everyone, regardless of skin color.

False Sense of Security

This misconception gives many people a false sense of security. As a result people with darker skin are less likely to use sunscreen and check their skin regularly.

For example, in a survey conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation 63% of African Americans that participated in it did not use sunscreen.

Additionally according to the 2016 study African Americans were most likely to be diagnosed with cancer in later stages and had the worst prognosis and lowest survival rates.

Late Stage Skin Cancer Diagnosis

According to the AAD a later stage diagnosis of skin cancer is usually more difficult to treat and people with darker skin tones tend to be diagnosed later because of the false sense of security.

It’s paramount to detect skin cancer early when it’s easiest to treat and most likely to be cured.

Sun Protection is Vital for Everyone

Fortunately skin cancer is generally a lifestyle disease, which means it’s preventable with the right healthy lifestyle.

First and foremost – everyone needs to wear sunblock. Also make sure you’re practicing these basic sun protection habits (and check out our post “Top 5 Sun Protection Tips” for even more details):

  1. Wear Sunscreen (of course I have to mention again)
  2. Cover up with clothing, sunglasses, and hats
  3. Seek shade during peak sun hours around 10AM to 4PM
  4. Check the UV index
  5. Protect children and babies

Finally make sure you’re performing skin exams once a month: “Detecting Skin Cancer – Spot It and Stop It" and visiting the doctor regularly.

Most importantly, never underestimate the power of the sun.

More Suncare Smarts

Want to learn more about good sun safety for you and your family? Check out our Suncare Smarts blog series.

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