Are There Any Early Skin Cancer Signs I Should Watch For
Regularly taking a look at your skin can go a long way when it comes to identifying skin cancer early.
Remember, sun isnt the only skin cancer culprit. You can develop skin cancer in areas of your body that arent typically exposed to sunlight.
Youve probably heard about these common signs:
- large, changing, or asymmetrical moles
- sores or bumps that bleed, ooze, or curst
- unusual-looking skin patches that dont heal
All of the above are indeed things to look out for on visible parts of the body. But people with darker skin are to a type of cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma . It presents itself in spots on slightly hidden places, such as:
- the hands
- soles of the feet
- under the nails
Darker-skinned people are also encouraged to look in their mouth for abnormalities as well as elsewhere for the following:
- dark spots, growths, or patches that appear to be changing
- patches that feel rough and dry
- dark lines underneath or around fingernails and toenails
Give your skin a check once a month. Follow up with a dermatologist at least once a year to stay on top of things.
Sufficiently protecting your skin from the suns rays is key in preventing sunburn.
Here are the basics to follow:
Five Things People Of Color Should Know About Skin Cancer
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A common misconception about skin cancer is that, because their skin contains a higher amount of melanin, African-Americans and people with darker skin dont have to worry about exposure to the suns radiation. While it is true that skin cancer is far less prevalent in dark-skinned populations, experts say anybody can be at risk for the disease.
Skin cancer among black people makes up only one to two percent of all cases of cancer in the U.S. according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, while Hispanic and other darker-skinned populations represent four to five percent of all cases of cancer.
Everybody is at risk for developing skin cancer, says Naiara Abreu Fraga Braghiroli, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist at Miami Cancer Institute who specializes in skin cancer treatment that uses the latest technology to monitor and diagnose high-risk patients. Yes, darker skin has more natural protection from higher amounts of melanin equivalent to an SPF13 sunscreen, essentially but they are still at risk of developing skin cancers.
Dr. Braghiroli says there are five things people of color should know about skin cancer:
Early detection is key in curing melanoma, Dr. Braghiroli says, so if you do find an unusual spot, changing mole or a wound that doesnt heal, you want to see your dermatologist right away.
Nering With A Dermatologist
Having a dermatologist as part of your care team is invaluable. This is especially necessary if you have a family history of skin cancer or risk factors such as a history of sunburns. A dermatologist keeps track of the health of your skin and is specially trained to notice subtle changes to the skin that could spell trouble down the line. Preventing disease and treating it as early as possible is the best way to live a long, healthy life.
Skin cancer can strike when you least expect it. Dr. Hendi and our team are dedicated to providing skin cancer patients with the highest quality of care when you need it most.
For more information on how we prevent and treat skin cancer, contact our Chevy Chase, Maryland office to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment.
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When Should I See A Dermatologist
A timely diagnosis of skin cancer before it spreads could save your life. When you go to your dermatologist to check a spot, theyll take a close look at your skin. Many will use a magnifying tool called a dermatoscope to help them see in more detail.
If they see something suspicious, they might recommend a skin biopsy. This is an office procedure done under local anesthesia. Once your skin is numb, the doctor removes a small sample for testing. The sample goes to a laboratory where another doctor looks at it under a microscope to decide if its cancerous or not. If a growth turns out to be cancerous, your dermatologist will discuss the next steps of your treatment.
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Now, there may be some legitimate thinking behind that. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is more than 20 times more common in white people than in black people in the United States, with black people being diagnosed at a rate of about 0.1 percent. Latinos fall somewhere in the middle, with about 1 in 172 people being diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetimes.
But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. A study in the November 2016 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that even though white people are the most likely to get skin cancer, they also had the longest survival time after diagnosis. Black people, by contrast, had the shortest survival time. In other words, the black people who get melanoma are more likely to die from it than the people from other racial groups.
There are a few factors that might contribute to those statistics. For one thing, black people are often diagnosed at later stages of the cancer than people from other racial groups. That could be because we often don’t see ourselves as being at risk, so are less likely to check ourselves for suspicious lumps and moles. It could also be because medical professionals make the same assumptions, and are less likely to be on the lookout for signs of skin cancer in darker-skinned patients.
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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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Q: Prevention Is Key What Are The Challenges
Multiple studies show much less frequent use of sunscreen among people of color. The most important rule, as with everyone, is simply to make sure you use it. Nuances arise in helping darker-skinned patients overcome some of the aesthetic barriers to use. The mineral-based sunscreens that are least irritating often create an ashen look, with residue, and thats a big obstacle. Patients constantly ask, What sunscreen can I use thats going to be acceptable for my skin? Ive found that the sophisticated formulations that have nanoparticles, where the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been micronized to limit the chalky look, tend to work well on darker skin tones. Theres been a general call to action in the industry to test sunscreen formulations on diverse populations in order to establish cosmetic acceptability across a range of skin types and complexions.
Can I Get Sunburned
People with darker skin are less likely to experience sunburn thanks to a little thing called melanin. Its a skin pigment produced by skin cells called melanocytes. Its aim is to block the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays.
Darker skin tones have more melanin than lighter ones, meaning theyre better protected from the sun. But melanin isnt immune to all UV rays, so theres still some risk.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found black people were the least likely to get sunburned. White people, on the other hand, had the highest rates of sunburn.
Heres a look at the percentage of people from different backgrounds who experienced at least one sunburn in the last year, according to the
- almost 66 percent of white women and just over 65 percent of white men
- just over 38 percent of Hispanic women and 32 percent of Hispanic men
- about 13 percent of black women and 9 percent of men
But theres a ton of variation in skin tone, even within these groups. To better understand your sunburn risk, its helpful to know where you fall on the Fitzpatrick scale.
Developed in 1975, dermatologists use the Fitzpatrick scale to determine how a persons skin will react to sun exposure.
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 doesnât heal, or a change in an old growth.
If you notice a change on your skin, see your doctor. Donât wait until the change looks like the more advanced skin cancers in these photos.
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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.
What Is Skin Cancer
The cells in your body have a lifespan. The process of apoptosis controls cell death and ensures unwanted cells are replaced with new ones. Skin cancer happens when abnormal skin cells grow out of control.
Over five million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Its the most common form of cancer in the country.
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.â That places them in grave danger.
â 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.
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Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause fine lines, wrinkles and age spots known as photoaging. People of color generally have less severe, and also delayed, photoaging. Still, the knowledge that UV radiation accelerates skin aging has helped many patients of color see the value of sunscreen use. But the biggest motivator for patients of color is that sunscreen addresses one of their most common dermatologic concerns hyperpigmentation . One of the best ways to manage melasma or other hyperpigmentation disorders is with sun protection. For this population, the idea that sunscreen will keep their hyperpigmentation in check makes them quite vigilant about sunscreen use.
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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
Causes Of Skin Cancer
UV rays cause skin cancer by creating changes in the cells of your skin. In some cases, the UV rays cause direct damage to your cells. Tans and sunburns, for example, are both signs that UV rays have damaged your skin. In other cases, UV rays cause skin cancer indirectly, by weakening the immune system.
Many studies on skin cancer show that people who have suffered many severe sunburns in childhood are at greater risk of developing skin cancer. Family history, some chemical exposures, and immune dysfunction conditions can also create a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
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So Can Dark Skin Tones Still Sunburn
In short, yes. Darker skin tones originate in parts of the world closest to the equator where UV exposure is highest. Melanin absorbs and scatters UV energy in a similar fashion to sunscreen providing Fitzpatrick V and Fitzpatrick VI individuals with a baseline estimated SPF of 7-10. This natural SPF allows darker skin tones to better tolerate UV exposure and typically results in tanning without burning. However, darker skin tones can still develop sunburns with high sun exposure, use of treatments that make the skin more sensitive to the sun , and/or rapid changes in UV exposure (say, winter Caribbean vacations and/or beach time.
Examples Of Relative Risk According To Risk Factor
Age over 50 years
- A male aged over 70 years old is 10 times more likely to develop melanoma than a 30-year-old man. A female aged over 70 years old is 4 times more likely to develop melanoma than a female of 30.
- But, melanoma is the most common cancer type in males aged between 25 and 40 years, and in females aged between 15 and 24 years.
- People who have had one melanoma are about 10 times more likely to develop a new melanoma than people who have never had a melanoma.
Having many moles
- People with more than 100 moles on the body are 7 times more likely to develop melanoma than people with fewer than 15 moles.
Having large or funny-looking moles
- People with 5 or more atypical moles have 6 times the risk of those with none.
Previous non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis
- People with sun-damaged skin are twice as likely to get melanoma as people without any noticeable sun damage.
Family history of melanoma
- Having a first-degree relative with a history of melanoma doubles the risk of getting melanoma compared with having no relatives with melanoma.
- This risk is higher if 2 or more relatives have had a melanoma, if the relative was young when they had their melanoma, or if the relative has had more than one melanoma.
Light- or fair-coloured skin
Skin that burns easily and tans poorly
- Prior sunburns make you twice as likely to get melanoma compared to someone who has never been sunburned.
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