4 Myths About Skin Cancer and Melanin-Rich Skin
Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t need to put on sunscreen because of their melanated complexion? Or dismiss the idea that skin cancer could be a thing for those with deeper skin tones? If so, you’re not the only one. Over time, myths surrounding the relationship (or lack thereof) between skin cancer and its potential effects on those with skin of color have become more common as the emphasis on skincare has increased.
In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Urban Skin Rx® is here to debunk myths surrounding skin cancer and melanin-rich skin tones and to educate you on how to protect your glow!
Debunking skin cancer myths
Myth #1 Skin cancer doesn’t affect people of color or deeper skin tones
FALSE! Skin cancer can affect anyone and exposure to the sun’s UV light is a key risk factor. While it’s less common in deeper skin tones, it tends to be diagnosed later for a multitude of factors including lack of public awareness, lack of suspicion from healthcare providers and lack of visibility on the body making it more deadly.
According to a 2006 study (whew, we’re way past due for an update on research!), 52% of non-Hispanic Black patients and 26% of Hispanic patients receive an initial diagnosis of advanced-stage melanoma, versus 16 percent of non-Hispanic white patients.
Myth #2 Having more melanin is sufficient protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays
FALSE! While it may be true that melanin has the ability to provide some protection against UVA and UVB rays, everyone is still at risk of developing sun-related cancer regardless of complexion.
According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year melanoma survival rate is 66% in African-Americans versus 94% in Caucasians. In addition, sunscreen is key for helping to prevent visible signs of aging and improving the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, a common concern of those with skin of color.
Myth #3 Those with melanin-rich skin don’t have to worry about sunscreen
SOOOOO FALSE! No matter your complexion you should always wear sunscreen when exposed to the sun - this includes applying sunscreen when working from home! Even the deepest of skin tones can put themselves at risk of sunburn, skin cancer, increased fine lines and wrinkles, speeding up the aging of skin and causing dark spots to get darker. Lather up darlings!
Myth #4 If I am developing skin cancer it will be easy to tell
Easier said than done. There are quite a few different types of indicators that suggest an abnormality or the presence of skin cancer, but that doesn’t mean that you know more than your dermatologist. Mole discoloration, texture and shape can present warning signs, however, the “rule of thumb” can often feel arbitrary to the untrained eye. Not to mention, most literature on skin cancer warning signs focuses on fair-skinned individuals. And melanoma in people of color most often appears on areas that get little sun exposure, with up to 60% to 75% of tumors arising on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the nail areas.
Instead of attempting to self-diagnose, schedule an annual checkup with your dermatologist and let the experts suss out the health status of your skin. And remember, if your skin is melanin-rich you may want to ensure that you vocalize your concerns and what you’ve learned so that your skincare professional will take a closer look.
Protect your glow, prevent skin cancer
Now that we’ve busted those myths, it’s time to figure out what steps you can take to protect your glow:
- Recognize there’s a possibility that everyone can develop skin cancer, including people of color who are at greater risk of developing late-stage melanoma.
- Reduce risk by applying sunscreen daily such as our DermShield All Day Sun Protection Mattifying Moisturizer SPF 30. Added bonus for beachgoers and swimmers, it’s water-resistant!
- Schedule an annual checkup to make skin cancer prevention a priority.
- Observe warning signs of basal cell carcinomas which are brown, or pigmented, moles atypical in symmetry, color, shape or size that appear on the skin’s surface.
- Consult a dermatologist if abnormal moles appear or if there’s a history of skin cancer in your family.
For other information on skincare essentials, tips, and products, check out the Glow-Up Guide often.