Are Some People More Likely To Get Skin Damage From The Sun
Everyones skin and eyes can be affected by the sun and other forms of ultraviolet rays. People with light skin are much more likely to have their skin damaged by UV rays , but darker-skinned people, including people of any ethnicity, can also be affected.
For some people, the skin tans when it absorbs UV rays. The tan is caused by an increase in the activity and number of melanocytes, which are the cells that make a brown pigment called melanin. Melanin helps block out damaging UV rays up to a point, which is why people with naturally darker skin are less likely to get sunburned, while people with lighter skin are more likely to burn. Sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. But UV exposure can raise skin cancer risk even without causing sunburn.
Aside from skin tone, other factors can also affect your risk of damage from UV light. You need to be especially careful in the sun if you:
Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you are taking any medicines that could increase your sensitivity to sunlight.
No matter how sensitive your skin is to the sun, its important to know how to protect yourself from UV rays.
Racial Disparities In Melanoma Outcomes Are Not Related To Uv Exposure
Many dermatologists often point out that black patients tend to show up to the doctor with later stage melanoma, which is true. However, this is an issue of access and awareness and has nothing to do with sunscreen application. Black people should be aware of growths on their skin and seek medical attention if they have any changing, bleeding, painful, or otherwise concerning spots, particularly on the hands and feet.
However, the notion that regular application of daily sunscreen will reduce an already extremely rare occurrence is nonsensical.
UV radiation does affect dark skin and can cause DNA damage however, the damage is seven to eight times lower than the damage done to white skin, given the natural sun-protective effect of increased melanin in darker skin. To be clear, using regular sunscreen may help with reducing other effects of the suns rays such as sun burns, wrinkling, photoaging and freckling, which are all positive, but for the average black person sunscreen is unlikely to reduce their low risk of melanoma any further.
If sunscreen was important in the prevention of melanoma in dark-skinned patients, then why have we never heard of an epidemic of melanoma in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with intense sun, a lot of black people, and little sunscreen?
How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer
The best way to prevent skin cancer, no matter your skin complexion, is to protect your skin from the sun. We know that the suns harmful UV rays damage skin, no matter your skin type. So, enjoy the sun in moderation, and protect yourself at the same time. Avoid sitting outside for too long in the middle of the day. Seek shade and use sun protective clothing or sunscreen to make sure your skin doesnt burn or darken.
When choosing a sunscreen, look for these three qualities:
SPF 30 or higher
Apply sunscreen to your skin 20 minutes before you go outside. Youll need a nickel-sized dollop for your face and a shot glass amount for your body to get the SPF on the label. While youre outside, reapply every 2 hours or after swimming and sweating. Luckily, we also now have tinted products that blend well into dark skin!
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Do Black People Need Sunscreen
Short answer: Yes.
One of the first things I ask my clients is, Do you wear sunscreen? and theyre always like, Oh no! I dont have to! Latoya Chaplin, a Black esthetician from Maryland who specializes in Black skin, told HuffPost. I think a lot of Black women believe that just because theyre not burning , theyre not getting sun damage.
There is a belief that Black skins melanin, the pigment that makes skin darker, naturally protects skin from the sun and its UV rays, creating a barrier against the negative effects of the sun. But as Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a dermatologist in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, explained, thats not necessarily the case.
An African American person has melanin that blocks UV light up to SPF 13, Solomon told HuffPost. This isnt as strong as the sunscreen which is created for skin protection. Yes, sunscreen is needed.
African American people often think that because they have more melanin that they have natural sunscreen.’ That places them in grave danger.
– Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon
Theres been debate about whether sunscreen is more harmful than helpful, since the skin can absorb chemicals from sunscreen into the bloodstream. However, the FDA has not determined these chemicals to be unsafe and the agency still stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen in order to prevent other deadly diseases. Even in the winter, Solomon suggests putting on sunscreen to protect from UV radiation.
Skin Color And Skin Cancer
The three most common skin cancers are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Getting too much ultraviolet light is linked to all of these cancers. But it is just one cause and may not even be a factor in melanoma in people of color. Some other things that can raise your risk of skin cancer are:
- Skin conditions that lead to scarring or chronic swelling and redness, like discoid lupus
- An infection that doesn’t heal
- Injury, such as a bad bruise or burn
- Having moles, especially on the palms, soles of your feet, and mouth
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How Common Is Skin Cancer On Darker Skin
Darker skin has more melanin, a pigment that determines skin tone. Having more melanin can absorb and deflect UV radiation, protecting the skin from sun damage.
Because their skin is less vulnerable to damage, Black people have lower rates of skin cancer. For example, melanoma occurs in about 1 in 38 white people compared with 1 in 1,000 Black people.
However, this does not mean people with darker skin cannot get skin cancer. When they do get it, it often goes undiagnosed until it has reached a more advanced stage. Because advanced cancer is harder to treat, Black people are
Some signs of BCC to look for include:
- a new or unusual growth on the skin
- a smooth patch with a translucent bump
- a growth with jelly-like contents
- a lesion that bleeds spontaneously
Black individuals commonly get BCC that is darker and less pearly in appearance.
Ethnicity And Skin Cancer
Asian American and African American melanoma patients have a greater tendency than Caucasians to present with advanced disease at time of diagnosis.
- The average annual melanoma rate among Caucasians is about 22 cases per 100,000 people. In comparison, African Americans have an incidence of one case per 100,000 people. However, the overall melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 77 percent, versus 91 percent for Caucasians.
- While melanoma is uncommon in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it is frequently fatal for these populations.
- Melanomas in African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in Caucasians, Hispanics, Chinese, and Japanese, and other Asian populations.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer among African Americans and Asian Indians.
- Among non-Caucasians, melanoma is a higher risk for children than adults: 6.5 percent of pediatric melanomas occur in non-Caucasians.
SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2004
Cress RD, Holly EA. Incidence of cutaneous melanoma among non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, Asians, and blacks: an analysis of California cancer registry data, 1988-93. Cancer Causes Control 1997 8:246-52.
Gloster HM, Neal K. Skin Cancer in Skin of Color. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006 55:741-60.
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Recommendations For Prevention And Early Detection Of Skin Cancer In People Of Color
Prevention is better than cure and more than 90% of skin cancers are preventable . Because many people of color believe that they are not at risk of skin cancer, education through media and doctors offices is extremely important. People of color should perform regular self examination of their skin from head to the toe carefully every month. There are various types of skin tumors, many are benign which include moles , warts and lipomas etc that can develop from different types of skin cells . However, unusual moles, sores, lumps, blemishes, markings or changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of melanoma or another type of skin cancer or a warning that it might occur. Know your ABCDEs can be a good guide for people of color to detect melanoma at an early stage .
How to Detect Melanoma Source:The Skin Cancer Foundation
How People Of Color Can Reduce Their Skin Cancer Risk
Dermatologists in the United States tell their patients with skin of color to reduce their risk of getting skin cancer by doing the following:
Seek shade whenever possible. The sun causes many skin cancers.
Wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat can shade your face and neck. You also want to wear shoes that cover the entire foot. African Americans often develop skin cancer on their feet.
Wear sunscreen. Yes, people of color should wear sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend that people of color use sunscreen that has:
Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. You want to apply sunscreen to skin that will be bare. Be sure to apply sunscreen every day even on cloudy days.
When outdoors, reapply sunscreen. You want to reapply:
Never use tanning beds or sunlamps. These emit harmful UV rays, which can cause skin cancer.
Skin of color: How to prevent and detect skin cancer
Although people of color have a lower risk of developing skin cancer than Caucasians, when skin cancer develops in people of color, it is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage making it more difficult to treat.
Follow these tips from dermatologists to protect your skin from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
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Who Is At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest in people who have fair or freckled skin that burns easily, light eyes and blond or red hair. Darker-skinned individuals are also susceptible to all types of skin cancer, although their risk is lower.
In addition to complexion, other risk factors include having a family history or personal history of skin cancer, having an outdoor job, and living in a sunny climate. A history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregularly shaped moles are risk factors unique to melanoma.
How Do I Perform A Skin Self
The only way to truly diagnose skin cancer is to get a skin biopsy . But its a good idea to learn how to check your skin for potential cancer growths so you can see a doctor early and give yourself the best chance at treating it successfully.
A self-exam for skin cancer is a full body screening of your skin that you do yourself. You will need a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to check your skin from head to toe. Pay attention to hard-to-see areas like:
The bottoms of your feet and between your toes
Your buttocks and groin
Within your nails
Inside your mouth
When youre doing a self-exam, you want to look for anything abnormal on your skin. These can include:
Spots that are new, growing, changing, itching, or bleeding
Moles or dark spots that change over time
Wounds, scabs, or sores that dont heal
Dark, thick, or uneven lines in your nails
Discoloration in your nails that deforms your nails or crosses over to your skin
If you see anything suspicious, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist right away.
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Major Risk Factors For Skin Cancer In Different Shades Of Skin
Malignant melanomas are more common in people with lighter skin, and a major risk factor for MMs in white people is sun exposure. Sun exposure is also the main risk factor for SCCs in this population.
But, its important to know that you can still get skin cancer from UV rays even if you dont sunburn. If youre anything like me, your dark skin might be giving you a false sense of security: I never burn and always tan when Im in the sun, so I must be safe. Its true that the skin pigment melanin does protect us to a certain degree. But theres no such thing as a safe tan. In fact, sun exposure is the major driver for BCCs in all races. Tanning is one way skin responds to injury from harmful ultraviolet rays. Having dark skin that tans definitely doesnt make us immune to getting skin cancer.
SCCs are the most common type of skin cancer for people with darker skin. The major risk factor for SCCs in this population is scarring caused by inflammation in the skin. This may be caused by conditions like:
Lupus of the skin
Q: While All Types Of Skin Cancer Are Less Common In People Of Color Their Outcomes Are Dramatically Worse What Accounts For This Gap
Skin cancers are less prevalent in nonwhite racial ethnic groups, but when they occur, they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis. One study, for example, found an average five-year melanoma survival rate of only 67 percent in Black people versus 92 percent in white people. Another showed that late-stage melanoma diagnoses are more common in Hispanic and Black patients than in non-Hispanic white patients.
First, theres a lower public awareness overall of the risk of skin cancer among individuals of color. Second, from the perspective of health-care providers, theres often a lower index of suspicion for skin cancer in patients of color, because the chances of it actually are smaller. So these patients may be less likely to get regular, full-body skin exams. And third, the places on the body where skin cancers tend to occur in people of color are often in less sun-exposed, more out-of-the-way areas, which makes detection more difficult. For example, the most common location for melanoma in patients of color is the lower extremities the soles of the feet in particular.
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Is Black Skin Immune To Sunburn
No, no, no! Again, its true that pale skin is way more prone to sunburns. But dark skin can get surnburned too. Its just trickier to detect because your skin doesnt turn as red as a lobster.
But youll get all the other symptoms of sunburn: your skins hot, feels tight, hurts like hell when you touch it and peels.
Sunburns are dangerous. Even one bad sunburn increases your chances of melanoma. And guess whos more at risk of sunburns? People who dont use sunscreen!
Melanoma & Skin Of Color
Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer and represents about 5% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States each year. While rates for many cancers are decreasing, new cases of melanoma are rising rapidly, especially among younger people. In fact, cases of melanoma have tripled in the last 30 years. And while People of Color are diagnosed with melanoma less often, they are up to four times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced melanoma and 1.5 times more likely to die from the disease.
To learn more about the risks of melanoma among people of color, tips for sun-safety and detection, and well as additional information on acral melanoma , please continue reading.
Yes, People of Color Can Get Melanoma
According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing melanoma is 1 in 1,000 for Blacks, 1 in 167 for Hispanics, and 1 in 38 for whites.1 While the chance of developing melanoma among People of Color is less than among whites, melanoma does occur across all races. The idea that People of Color do not get melanoma is a myth and stands in the way of raising awareness of melanoma, and other skin cancers, among People of Color.
Melanoma May Look Different Among People of Color
Cutaneous melanoma, the most common type, is caused by cell damage from ultraviolet light from the sun. People of Color are far less likely to develop this type of melanoma than their white counterparts.2
Melanoma is Found Later Among People of Color
Later Diagnosis = Lower Survival
What Does Skin Cancer Look Like
There are many different types of skin cancer . Each type looks different. Also, skin cancer in people with dark skin often looks different from skin cancer in people with fair skin. A change on the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This may be any new growth on the skin, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in an old growth.
If you notice a change on your skin, see your doctor. Don’t wait until the change looks like the more advanced skin cancers in these photos.
What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer In Black People
The main symptom of skin cancer is a change in an area of skin. This sounds very general, so lets dive deeper into some general qualities to look for.
Not all skin cancers appear the same. Its possible that a cancerous area could have one, a few, or all the characteristics listed below.
Whats important is that you make an appointment with a dermatologist if you have concerns about a certain area. They can evaluate the area to help determine whether it may be skin cancer.
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