People of Color Are Not Immune to Skin Cancer

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • One of the many myths surrounding skin cancer is that people of color don’t get it. While it is true their risk is lower, it is not true that people of color are safe and never need to worry about skin cancer. Unfortunately, as this myth continues, more and more people will die because they never bothered to seek help from a doctor for skin cancer lesions because they never knew it was possible.

    Skin cancer in people of color is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, making it much harder to treat. While it is less common in people of color, the five year survival rate is much higher. For Caucasians, the five year survival rate is 91 percent, for people of color it is 73 percent. Early detection and treatment is important. During the early stages, it is highly treatable. During the advanced stages, it can be serious, if not fatal.

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    A report released in February, 2014 and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology provided recommendations for people of color in preventing and recognizing skin cancer.

    Preventing Skin Cancer

    The recommendations for prevention are the same as for Caucasians: seek shade during hours between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, wear protective clothing such as wide brimmed hats and sunglasses, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and stay away from tanning beds. While these recommendations are well-known, many people of color do not believe they need to follow them and assume the recommendations are made for Caucasians only. The report stresses that these recommendations are important for everyone, people of color included.

    The researchers did note that people of color are at a higher risk for Vitamin D deficiencies and should consider taking a supplement. Those with darker skin were more likely to have these deficiencies.

    Detecting Skin Cancer

    As with Caucasians, the report recommends that people of color perform skin self-checks on a monthly basis. If you notice spots or lesions that change (size or color), itch or bleed or if you have sores or wounds that won’t heal you should consult a dermatologist.

    In Caucasians, skin cancer often shows up in areas that have been exposed to the sun, however, in people of color this isn’t always the case. Lesions might appear on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, under the toe/fingernails, in the mouth and on the groin or buttocks. Self skin checks should include all of these areas.

    Remember, no one is immune to skin cancer, no matter what skin color you have. Take precautions by performing self checks and contacting your dermatologist if you notice any new spots or if existing spots change.

    For more information:

    Skin Cancer and Skin of Color


    10 Things Women of Color Should Know About Skin Care


    Bob Marley's Skin Cancer

Published On: June 24, 2014