Skin Cancer and Darker Skin: What Patients Need to Know
- Posted on: Nov 15 2018
As much as skin cancer awareness has increased over the years, there remain more than a few myths that need debunking. A critical matter of importance for healthcare providers and patients alike is the need for protection against harmful UV light; and yet, this is where we can go wrong. What all patients need to understand is that they are at risk, period.
Skin cancer is not fickle about the tone of a person’s skin; it has no real preference. Cell growth may be more easily disrupted on a person with fair skin, but that doesn’t mean UV light has no effect on darker skin. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2016, melanoma rates were overall lower in people of color than in whites. However, the survival rate was more than 20% lower in that patient population. Why? Poor awareness and delayed care.
All people, regardless of skin tone, perceived risk, and other factors, need to move into a better place of prevention when it comes to skin cancer. This means becoming familiar with warning signs and performing regular self-checks. Additionally, all adults benefit from annual skin cancer screenings performed by a dermatologist.
Doesn’t pigment act as built-in SPF?
It is a common misperception that people with darker skin really don’t need sunscreen. Their skin may not burn in a highly visible way, confirming this belief. The fact is, skin pigment is only mildly protective. Even in very dark skin, natural SPF is not sufficient enough to eliminate skin cancer risks. Furthermore, UV exposure is only one of the risk factors in the development of skin cancer. Melanoma, especially acral lentiginous melanoma, may form on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
Patients Rely on Their Healthcare Provider for Valuable Information
Doctors report that the idea that darker people do not need sunscreen is one of the biggest skin cancer misconceptions they hear in their offices. This is understandable based on the general marketing efforts of sunscreen manufacturers. Because protective products, and even many widespread skin cancer campaigns, are geared toward lighter-skinned individuals, the idea that dark skin tones do not need UV protection is only exacerbated. It is for this reason that health care providers play an invaluable role in the lives of their patients.
The American Society for Mohs Surgery is a community of over 1,000 dermatologists, pathologists, and Mohs technicians. It is our objective to assist healthcare providers in the prevention and treatment of skin cancer. To learn more about the benefits of membership and our upcoming courses, call (800) 616-2767.
Posted in: Skin Cancer