There are two dangerous myths floating around: first, that people of
color can’t get skin cancer and second, that if you have darker skin then you
don’t need to wear sunscreen. These are both false, so your Vitalogy Skincare
Dermatologists help explain the truth about people of color and their skin.
Here are three important facts to know:
1. People of any ethnicity can get skin cancer.
While more common
in Caucasians, it does comprise 1 – 2% of malignancies in African Americans and
Asian Indians and 2 – 4% of all cancers in Chinese and Japanese Asians.
These incidents are unfortunately rising, and mortality rates are
disproportionately high in people with darker skin.
“Unfortunately, due to the myth that darker skin types don’t get skin cancer, it’s often diagnosed late or missed.” – Dr. Sulochana Bhandarkar of Vitalogy Skincare
2. People of any skin tone need to wear
Darker skin types have more melanin in their skin, which gives them some natural sun protection compared to Caucasian skin. Experts with the Skin Cancer Foundation note that darker skin types naturally have an SPF of 13.4, compared to 3.4 of lighter skin types.
However, both lighter and darker skin types require 30 SPF to protect their skin from cancer. So, everyone should wear sunscreen no matter how light or dark their skin.
3. Early detection is key to treating any
Bhandarkar explains, “It is often easily treatable when caught early, so
it’s important to establish a treatment plan with a dermatologist and come in
for any concerning lesions that are present for more than 4 – 6 weeks.”
Understanding Different Types
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in African
Americans and Asian Indians. It also tends to occur in different areas compared
to the Caucasian population. You can often see involvement around the lower
legs and in sites of chronic injury (like burn scars, lupus scars, or chronic
ulcers). It tends to be more aggressive in these areas, so it’s important to be
aware of the risk of this cancer in darker skin.
Basal cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer in people of
color. It often occurs on the head and neck, so it’s a good idea to get any
growing or new lesions checked out in these areas.
Melanoma is the
least common but the deadliest form of skin cancer. In people of color, it
tends to occur in areas which are easily missed like the mouth, palms, soles,
and under the nails. So, it’s important for patients to examine these areas and
visit a dermatologist if they see any dark spots or bands.
Regardless of your skin tone, be on the lookout for any changes in your
skin and make
an appointment today if you have any concerns.