Darker skin tones do not equate to no risk of skin cancer—a misperception that is leading to rising rates of the disease in the Hispanic population. The myth of “built-in” sun protection has led to a higher rate of locally advanced skin cancer in Hispanic patients over Caucasians, a growing trend. Although the most recent studies are related to Hispanic (skin type IV), all darker skin types have a skin cancer risk.
Patients with darker skin tones are also more vulnerable in areas less likely to be protected from the sun, such as palms, soles, inside the mouth and under nails, according to the Icahn School of Medicine.
Delays in diagnosis also lead to more challenging skin cancers—especially melanoma. Other significant issues are basal cell carcinoma diagnoses, which darker skinned patients typically develop less often than others but later in life. Other misguided practices, for all ethnicities, include getting a “base tan” at a tanning booth in order to protect against the sun.
The only healthy tan is the one you are born with. All skin types should be educated to adopt safe sun practices. It starts with building awareness about the skin cancer risks that are real in every skin type in addition to education on sunscreen use and protective clothing.
It is all about education and building awareness in Hispanic and all other populations. As a precaution and prevention of undiagnosed skin cancers, it is advised to visit your dermatologist’s office for periodic skin checks. Skin cancers are a reality with all skin types.
Those educated with sunscreen awareness understand that there are 2 main types of rays that affect us, UVA and UVB. While those of us with lighter skin may be affected more by UVB rays, which can cause sunburn, it is the UVA rays that lead to skin cancers, premature aging and unsightly brown spots on the skin.
Due to the warning sign that UVB rays give to the lighter skinned patient, they are more willing to wear sunscreen based on the discomfort caused by a burn. Because darker skin tones may not get the warning signs that the lighter skins are prone to, they feel that they are immune to sun damage of any type. This has proven to be untrue, and the number of cancers among darker skin tones is on the rise.
Education and periodic visits to your dermatologist are a necessary part of your skin’s health. Choosing to ignore the facts that the sun affects all skin types, no matter what colour, is no better than running out into traffic. Taking chances with your health because you don’t want to apply that extra step in the morning is unacceptable. Believing that sunscreen is not good for you because someone without any facts decided to write an uneducated blog is no excuse and is certainly not in your best interest.
A trip to your dermatologist to review your moles and other spots is covered by OHIP. At Toronto Dermatology Centre, you can visit one of our medical estheticians for a complimentary education session on the ins and outs of sun protection. There are no longer any excuses acceptable to not look after your skin. The studies have been done and the facts are clear. Choose to look after the health of your skin and the health of you.
~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre