Now that summer is here, dermatologists across the nation are reminding everyone to be wary of the threat of skin cancer, especially those with dark skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology has recently released a statement driving home the fact that anyone, regardless of skin color, is susceptible to developing skin cancer. They say that there is a common misconception that those with more melanin, or color pigment, in their skin are naturally protected from the sun and its harmful rays; however, that is not true.
In fact, African Americans are less likely to check for skin cancer, and because of this, when skin cancer is detected, it tends to be diagnosed at a more severe stage. This makes the illness more difficult to treat and potentially fatal.
“People of color often believe that they’re protected from the sun because they have darker skin tones and are less likely to burn,” said board-certified dermatologist Hassan Galadari, MD, to News Wise. “However, due in part to this belief, the five-year melanoma survival rate for African-Americans and Latinos is lower than for Caucasians.”
According to the American Cancer Society, when caught in the earliest stage, melanoma has a five-year survival rate of 97%. But when the cancer spreads, this survival rate decreases to anywhere between 15% and 20%.
Unfortunately, the statistics about melanoma in those with dark skin is jarring — 52% of non-Hispanic blacks and 26% of Hispanics received a diagnosis of advanced stage melanoma when this trend was only seen in 16% of Caucasian patients. And scarily enough, even though the majority of those affected by melanoma are white men over 50, melanoma skin cancer is the leading cause of death in women between 25 and 30, as per the Melanoma Research Foundation. So considering that sunspots can start showing up as early as the mid-20s, it is crucial everyone starts taking care of their skin properly early on.
To protect against developing skin cancer, Dr. Galadari recommends that anyone, no matter the pigment of their skin, do the following:
- Wear sunscreen even if it is cloudy outside as UVA and UVB rays can still be present in the clouds.
- Don’t forget protection when near water, sand, or snow as the sun’s rays can bounce off these surfaces and become even more powerful.
- Seek shade during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the most powerful.
- Examine your skin regularly, looking for any asymmetrical moles, moles that have grown in size, moles with jagged borders, and moles that change color.
And Dr. Galadari explains that, as always, if you notice anything unusual, do not hesitate to contact a dermatologist right away.