Skin Cancer is Color-Blind

We talk a lot on the blog about the importance of wearing SPF. With over 2 million people diagnosed annually, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we also want to spread the word that skin cancer is color-blind.

While Caucasians are the primary victims of skin cancer, everyone—regardless of skin color—can develop skin cancer. Yes, it’s true that darker skin pigment contains more melanin, which helps protect skin from harmful rays, but people with darker skin are not immune to skin cancer.

Melanoma is many times more common in Caucasians (1 in 50) than in African Americans (1 in 1,000) or Hispanics (1 in 200). But the danger for people of color is greater. The five-year survival rate for African Americans is 73 percent, compared with 91 percent for Caucasians. That difference is usually linked to later diagnosis and treatment. Doctors caution that it’s not a disease that should be ignored.

In one of the most notable cases of skin cancer, reggae legend Bob Marley discovered a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of one of his toes. The cancer spread to Marley’s lungs and brain, causing his death at the age of 36.

The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer if it’s caught early. So everyone—no matter their skin color—should be wearing broad-spectrum SPF 30 sun protection daily, getting checked by a dermatologist yearly, and doing skin self-checks monthly, looking carefully at the soles of the feet, palms, fingernails, toenails, mouth, groin and buttocks.

Here are some more sun-safety tips:

  • Seek shade whenever possible.
    • Wear sun-protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
    • Avoid tanning beds.
    • Apply an SPF formula of at least 30 to all exposed areas of the skin 15-to-30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every 90 minutes when outdoors, after swimming or sweating.

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