Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and it can affect you whether you have light, medium, or the darkest skin tones.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. While fair skin tones are most at risk for sunburns and skin cancer, we are all exposed to UV rays which puts us all at risk for developing skin cancer, no matter our skin tone. Yes, even those that tan easily and never burn can develop skin cancer.
What causes skin cancer?
Too much UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. When your skin gets excess UV from exposure to the sun, the cells in your skin can change. Skin cancer develops when abnormal skin cells grow uncontrollably. This happens because of damage to DNA that isn't repaired, which causes the cells to mutate and multiply quickly.
What is your skin type and why is it important to know?
We use the Fitzpatrick scale which is a tool used to assess your risk of skin cancer based on your skin type. It rates two things: the amount of pigment in your skin and how your skin reacts to the sun. It can also indicate how likely you are to develop skin cancer. What’s your Fitzpatrick skin type? Take the quiz here.
What are the risk factors involved in people with lighter skin developing skin cancer?
People with light skin are susceptible to skin cancer because they have less melanin in their skin. Melanin is a pigment that helps to protect the skin from UV radiation damage. The less melanin someone has, the more likely they are to develop sun damage and skin cancer. People with red hair, freckles, and/or blue eyes are especially vulnerable to UV radiation.
What are the risk factors involved in people with darker skin developing skin cancer?
Certain risk factors make people of color vulnerable to skin cancer. There is a common myth out there that those with naturally tan or darker skin tones are not as at risk, leading them to be less likely to wear sunscreen or take other preventative measures to protect themselves. Did you know that Bob Marley died at just 36 years old from skin cancer? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation
, he had “acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), a serious, rare disease that is also the most common form of melanoma in people with darker skin tones.”
Tips to prevent skin cancer for people of ALL skin types
Skin cancer rates are on the rise in the US, and people of all skin colors can develop skin cancer. The good news is that there are steps that everyone can take to help prevent skin cancer.
No matter your skin tones, it is important to seek out shade when spending time outdoors, as UV rays can be most damaging during those midday hours.
Wearing protective clothing, like hats and long-sleeved shirts, can also help to shield the skin from harmful rays.
Regardless of skin color, everyone should use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply it regularly throughout the day.
Treatment options for skin cancer
The good news is that there are many effective treatments available, and our dermatologists will work with you to create a plan that is tailored to your unique needs.
It’s important to know that everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, no matter their skin tone or type. If you have any concerns about skin cancer, we are here to help. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so don't hesitate to get the care you need. With the right treatment plan, you can benefit from many more years of good health and great skin.