When it comes to skin cancer, dark-skinned individuals are not at a lower risk than those with lighter complexions. While people with dark skin do have more melanin and, therefore, greater protection against UV rays, they can still develop melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
In honor of Healthy Skin Month, this post explores easy ways that dark-skinned people can protect themselves from skin cancer risks, according to a dermatologist.
The Relationship Between Skin Color and Skin Cancer
Many people have the misconception that darker skin means immunity from skin cancer. However, anyone can develop cancer, even if they do not have a lot of direct sun exposure.
Skin cancer is broadly divided into two categories:
Nonmelanomas: Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are nonmelanoma skin cancers; they form in the basal, squamous, or Merkel cells in the skin.
Melanomas: A melanoma is a type of skin cancer that forms in melanocytes, the special types of cells that create pigment and give skin its color.
Most cases of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), followed by squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Among dark-skinned people, SCC is the most common. In cases of melanoma, most cases in people with dark skin occur in parts of the body that do not receive a lot of sun exposure.
One of the biggest issues is that skin cancer on darker complexions is detected later and diagnosed when it’s more advanced. Understanding where to look and what warning signs to watch out for can help patients get early treatment.
Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer With Dark Skin
- Wear sunscreen, always. Use a product with SPF 30-50.
- Limit direct sun exposure. Aim for no more than an hour per day.
- Check for skin changes. Look for signs of discoloration, strange patches, moles, dark bands around the nails, and cuts or sores that do not heal quickly.
- Avoid the sun from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when UV exposure is at its highest.
Get Personalized Skin Care at Westchester Dermatology Medical Center
Dr. Sherri Peace is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical care for patients with skin conditions, including skin cancer. If you have any concerns about your skin or risks, you can book an appointment online or call Westchester Dermatology Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, at 310-645-6001.