Skin Cancer Affects Everyone
People of color may be less likely than Caucasians to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, but those who develop melanoma are more likely than Caucasians to die from it. Studies have shown that the five-year survival rate for African Americans with melanoma is 59 percent, compared to 85 percent for Caucasians.
While skin cancer comprises only one to two percent of all cancers in African Americans, patients in this population are more likely to be diagnosed later with advanced cases. Experts say it's partly because of the widespread misconception that non-Caucasians are immune to skin cancer. In fact, everyone, regardless of skin color, can fall prey to it.
"Skin cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat successfully, if diagnosed early," said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. "It is important for us to reach out to the African American community regarding the importance of prevention, early detection, and prompt, effective treatment."
In addition to adopting a sun protection regimen (see the Prevention Guidelines, below) everyone should perform monthly self-exams to check their skin for warnings signs of skin cancer. During a self-exam, note any changes in the skin, such as increases in size or changes in the shape or color of any growth, spot, sore, mole or lesion. People of color should pay particular attention to non-exposed skin with less pigment, such as the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions, as up to 60-75 percent of their tumors arise in these areas. Furthermore, these tend to be among the most dangerous and fast-moving form of the disease. If your skin shows any warning signs of skin cancer, consult your physician. For a complete self-exam how-to guide, visit www.SkinCancer.org/Self-Examination.
However, a self-exam should not replace an annual skin exam. Everyone should see a physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin, once a year, or more often if you have a history of skin cancer. If you do not have access to a dermatologist, check www.SkinCancer.org/Tour to see if The Skin Cancer Foundation's Road to Healthy Skin Tour, presented by AVEENO and Rite Aid, is coming to your area. The Tour provides free, full-body skin exams by local dermatologists.
The Skin Cancer Foundation's Prevention Guidelines
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
About The Skin Cancer Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit www.SkinCancer.org.