What People Of Color Need To Know About Skin Cancer

Let’s make one thing clear first: No matter what skin color you have, excessive sun exposure increases your risk of having skin cancer. In fact, you can get this deadly disease even if you never sunburn. However, those with darker skin tend to have more protection from the sun’s harmful rays. The melanin found in skin pigment acts as a broadband light absorbent and can dissipate over 99.9 percent of ultraviolet radiation.

Melanin is the skin’s first line of defense against UV energy. Skin cells deploy melanin they have on hand, which will then divert the harmful rays away from healthy cells. Melanin production allows more pigment into the skin. This is responsible for the skin darkening that we call a suntan, so those of you with tanned skin literally have a sun-blocking layer built-in. 

Poor Prognosis

While skin cancer is less prevalent in people of color than in white people, their prognoses are dramatically worse. Skin cancers in nonwhite racial-ethnic groups tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and, therefore, have worse outcomes. Multiple studies have revealed that five-year melanoma survival rates of Hispanics and Blacks are consistently lower than those of Caucasians. Compared to ethnicities of lighter complexion, these races usually come with more advanced, thicker tumors and thus inclined to have a less promising prognosis, with higher mortality. 

What Accounts For This Gap

Public awareness of the risk of skin cancer is currently poor among individuals of color. Since it’s proven that people of color have fewer chances of getting the deadly disease, there’s often a lower index of suspicion for skin cancer for them. From the perspective of healthcare providers, it is not a priority for patients of color to get annual, whole-body skin checkups. 

Furthermore, skin cancers typically appear in out-of-the-way areas on the body of dark-skinned people. This makes early detection more difficult. For example, the most common site for melanoma in Blacks and Hispanics in the lower extremities – specifically, the soles of the feet.

It Pays To Use Sunscreen

Reports show much less frequent use of sunscreen among people of color. It is extremely important to have that protection against the sun’s UV rays. Nuances arise in aiding darker-skinned patients get over some of the aesthetic challenges to use. Most sunscreens give an irritating feeling. On top of that, the lotion can create an ashen look and leave a residue. 

Sunscreen products with sophisticated formulation and contains nanoparticles, where the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have been micronized to limit the chalky look, can work excellently on darker skin tons. There’s been a general call to action in the industry to create formulations that diverse populations would be able to use. 

Communities should increase awareness about the dangers of skin cancer among populations of color. Everyone should get a full-body examination from a dermatologist once a year – or any time they see something unusual, such as changing or new mole or growth. Skin cancer takes thousands of lives every year. By having your skin checked and simply using sunscreen, you can significantly reduce your risk of getting this deadly disease. 

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