MIAMI, FL (Black PR Wire) — A common misconception about skin cancer is that, because their skin contains a higher amount of melanin, African Americans and people with darker skin don’t have to worry about exposure to the sun’s 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: Dr. Braghiroli says that 75 percent of skin cancers diagnosed in people of color are in areas that are not exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands, nail beds, soles of the feet, inside the mouth and/or the genitalia area. Due to the locations of these skin cancers, there is a higher mortality rate for people of color as diagnosis is often delayed. As such, self-exams are extremely important.
Dr. Braghiroli recommends conducting a self-exam at least once a month. Use a mirror, she says, and have a partner help you, if possible. “Pay close attention to areas not exposed to the sun, looking for new black/brown areas, asymmetrical moles, open wounds that don’t heal, and old scars that develop open wounds.” In addition to self-examinations, Dr. Braghiroli advises an annual screening by your dermatologist, whose trained eye may catch any spots you might have missed. People with higher risk factors should be screened more often, she says.
- Always Use Sunscreen: Whilepeople of color are less at risk for skin cancer caused by UV radiation, it’s important that they protect their skin, nevertheless. Sunscreen use can also protect people of color against hyperpigmentation, according to Dr. Braghiroli. She advises using a mineral-based sunscreen containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. “Mineral-based sunscreens work like a shield, sitting on the surface of the skin and deflecting the sun’s harmful rays,” she explains.
The old mineral sunscreens would appear as a white coating, which could create a chalky appearance on people of color. Dr. Braghiroli says that sunscreen formulations have evolved over the years and that today’s sunscreens are far superior, with some mineral sunscreens even offering a tinted color to match various skin tones.