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Do Black People Get Skin Cancer

Treatment For Skin Cancer


For the most part, skin cancer is treated the same way indark-skinned people as it is in those with lighter skin.

It begins with surgery to remove the cancer. However, takingadditional precautions can reduce scarring in people with darker skin, as theytend to suffer from thick scars, known as keloids.

If a patient comes to me with basal cell carcinoma, whichis the most common type of skin cancer, I ask about any previous experiencewith scars, Dr. Kyei explains. The reason I ask that question is that I dontwant someone to end up with a thick scar somewhere noticeable like their face.If youre someone who tends to get thick keloids and your cancer is verysuperficial and not high-risk, we might start with a chemotherapy cream as aninitial treatment method instead of surgery.

Despite the potential for scarring, surgery is the onlytreatment method for melanoma. Melanoma is deadly, Dr. Kyei says. It has tobe cut out no matter what.

Injected steroids can sometimes help minimize scarring.

How Is Melanoma Treated

Melanoma treatment can include:

  • surgery to remove the cancerous lesion
  • chemotherapy: tumor-killing medicines are given by mouth, through an injection , or intravenously
  • targeted therapy: specific medicines that find and attack cancer cells without hurting normal cells
  • immunotherapy : when doctors stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells

The treatment chosen depends on:

  • how big and how deep the lesion is
  • what part of the body it is on
  • whether the cancer has spread

Five Things People Of Color Should Know About Skin Cancer

This post is available in: Spanish

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:

  • Practice Self-Exams:
  • Always Use Sunscreen:
  • Understand the Signs/Symptoms of Melanoma:
  • 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.

  • Know Your Risk and Family History:
  • Also Check: Basaloid Tumor

    How Common Is Skin Cancer In Black People

    Skin cancer is generally not common among Black people or people with darker skin. This has led to the belief that dark and black skin tones are immune to the ravages of the sun. However, while the prevalence of melanomathe most serious type of skin canceris lower on dark skin, its prognosis is even less favorable. The rampancy of melanoma has increased considerably in recent decades, in particular, because of our overexposure to the sun.

    So what exactly is melanoma? Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes, the cells that make melanin. However, significant exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning machines promotes the deregulation of these cells.

    Q: While All Types Of Skin Cancer Are Less Common In People Of Color Their Outcomes Are Dramatically Worse What Accounts For This Gap

    Can Black People Get Skin Cancer?

    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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    Types Of Melanoma + Prevention Tips

    Remember that to avoid the occurrence of melanoma, it is essential to protect yourself from the sun. This means you have to use sunscreens with at least an SPF of 30, and it should be re-applied every two hours and after each swim. It is also recommended that you wear sunglasses, a hat, and light-colored clothing during extended exposure to the sun. Also, avoid exposing yourself to the sun between noon and 4 p.m., when the sun is most dangerous.

    Finally, be sure to inspect any moles regularly and if you notice any irregularitya diameter greater than 6 millimeters, a color change, or an elevationconsult a dermatologist quickly.

    The Science Behind South Korea’s Race

    And then she tells them about her treatment: “I have an 8-inch scar from my surgery. They removed every single lymph node in my pelvic and groin region. I have a bigger scar around that from radiation. I had to give up two years of my life. I had to inject myself weekly with interferon. Because of that I have weakness, my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I developed lymphedema in my right leg. I just last month had a lymph node transplant, where they remove lymph nodes from my side and put them into my ankle. And so all of this is from a cancer that, had I known I could have perhaps prevented it, I would definitely have just worn sunscreen.”

    Do you have thoughts/questions/feelings about race? Need some racial advice in your own life? We want to hear from you! Email us at , or fill out this form and tell us the deets.

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    What Does It All Mean

    Overall, these results suggest that there are differences in cancer development, understanding, and prognosis of skin cancer between racial and ethnic groups. The reasons for this are not well understood and may be related to a variety of different factors. Some of these may be related to genetics, environmental or work exposures, social factors, financial issues, lifestyle practices, diet, access to healthcare and helpful resources, and more.

    This is such an important topic to talk about, as more aggressive cancers and high mortality rates can take a huge toll on quality of life. However, this information is only from a few studies, and much more research is needed to understand the factors at play. For the time being, studies like these can help call out the differences in general, and may help doctors better diagnose and treat people from all backgrounds.

    Varying Attitudes Regarding Skin Cancer


    Different understandings of skin cancer and risk in minority groups may contribute to the later, more aggressive, diagnoses. For example, in one Florida-based study, researchers found that:

    • Only a quarter of minorities at a health clinic had heard of skin cancer.
    • About 20 percent thought their darker skin meant they could not get skin cancer.
    • Just under half thought it was unlikely or very unlikely to get skin cancer.
    • Around 60 percent had never done a self-skin check and only about 20 percent had ever seen a dermatologist.4

    Although minorities are at a lower risk of skin cancer, it is still possible. Results like these show the importance of monitoring for signs of skin cancer to prevent delays in diagnosis. Education and awareness of skin cancer across all skin types may be key to reducing disparities.

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    Skin Cancer In People Of Color

    As a person of color, you might question whether skin cancer ought to be one of your top health concerns. If you’re African-American, you may not even think you can getskin cancer. But youâd be surprised.

    “Anyone can get skin cancer,” says Lisa Chipps, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. It is less common in people of color, but itâs often more serious. That’s because it’s usually found later, when it’s harder to treat.

    If you know what to look for and how to protect yourself, you can prevent it or catch it early.

    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

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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.

    How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed

    Can black people get skin cancer?

    Skin cancer is often diagnosed by a dermatologist. This is a type of doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the skin. The first steps include getting your medical history and performing a physical exam.

    The physical exam will include a skin exam, during which your dermatologist checks your skin for spots or bumps that appear abnormal. If they find an area that has a concerning color, size, or shape, theyll perform a skin biopsy.

    During a skin biopsy, all or a portion of the abnormal-looking area is carefully removed using a sterile instrument. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area, so you wont feel pain during the procedure.

    The biopsy sample is sent to a lab where its checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. When the analysis is complete, your dermatologist will receive a report of the results, which theyll then communicate to you.

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    Early Detection And Prevention

    Many dermatologists do not have experience in treating people with darker skin. Implicit bias during assessment and diagnosis can also play a role, so it is important that Black people know the signs of skin cancer.

    No matter what type of skin cancer a person has, detecting it early improves their outlook. Knowing the signs and symptoms of skin cancer can help a person detect suspicious skin growths early.

    An individual can try :

    • Doing regular skin checks every few months: When a person is familiar with their skin, it makes it easier to detect potentially harmful changes in moles and freckles.
    • Visiting a dermatologist for an annual skin cancer screening: This is particularly important if a person has a family history of skin cancer.
    • Wearing sunscreen in the sun: Black people can burn, too. The melanin in Black skin has an estimated

    usually begins as a change in the skin. This can be a new growth like a freckle or a mole or changes to an existing growth.

    Being familiar with their skin can help a person detect abnormalities. Regular skin self-exams can help a person get to know their skin and how their moles and freckles typically look.

    When people find a questionable mole or freckle, they can wonder whether or not it may be melanoma. Try using the acronym ABCDE to check growths when doing a skin exam:

    Diagnosing skin cancer starts with an exam. A doctor will use a scope to look at suspicious skin growths.

    Can Melanoma Be Prevented

    You can’t control how fair your skin is or whether you have a relative with cancerous moles. But there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing melanoma. The most important is limiting your exposure to the sun.

    Take these precautions:

    • Avoid the strongest sun of the day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever you’re in the sun.
    • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover up with long, loose cotton clothing if you burn easily.
    • Stay out of the tanning salon. Even one indoor tanning session increases your risk of getting melanoma.

    Also, be sure to check your moles often . Keep dated records of each mole’s location, size, shape, and color, and get anything suspicious checked out right away.

    Not all skin cancer is melanoma, but every case of melanoma is serious. So now that you know more about it, take responsibility for protecting yourself and do what you can to lower your risk.

    You can find more information online at:

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    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.

    People Of Color Can Develop Melanoma And Other Skin Cancers

    Doctor: Melanoma more deadly for people of color

    While pervasive, the myth that people of color dont need to worry about skin cancer, is entirely untrue. And while the rates of skin cancer among people of color are lower than rates for people with lighter skin, low risk doesnt mean no risk.

    In fact, because people of color have been left out of sun safety conversations for so long, when they are diagnosed with melanoma, it tends to be at a far later stage of disease, drastically reducing prognosis and survival.1 As another study bluntly put it, black people are four times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage melanoma and 1.5 times more likely to die from melanoma than white people.2

    Melanin, a pigment produced in the skin responsible for skin tone, does naturally confer some protection from ultra violet radiation. However, even among people with the darkest skin, it is still inadequate to protect you from the aging and hyper pigmenting effects of the sun.

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    Major Types Of Treatments

    Although surgical modalities remain the mainstay of treatment, new research and fresh innovation are still required to reduce morbidity and mortality . There has been innovation in skin cancer treatment in the last few years than in the previous 30 years . Here, we are not discussing treatment methodology in details but just an outline of currently applicable standard treatments for skin cancer is given .

  • Surgery: Most basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be successfully treated with surgery and early-stage melanomas are also cured. Thin layers are removed until no more cancer cells are seen.

  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. It is used when cancer is widely spread, recurred and surgery is not possible.

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapeutic drugs are usually given as injection or taken by mouth as a pill. They travel through the bloodstream to all parts of the body and attack cancer cells and stop their growth by killing them or by stopping them from dividing.

  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is the emerging new type of treatment that stimulates a persons own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively.

  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do.


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