Do you have darker skin? If so, skin cancer might not be top of mind as a significant health threat, but beware – just because your skin is darker does not mean you are immune to skin cancer. Thanks to objective methods to measure skin color developed by L'Oreal Research & Innovation, L'Oreal, has been able to demonstrate that sun exposure risks affect all skin types and skin colors. This is why it's important for everyone to be vigilant about their sun protection. Skin cancer does not discriminate; it occurs in all populations, regardless of skin color.
"The lack of skin cancer recognition in patients of color is a problem and poses a serious health threat if left untreated," said Dr. Wendy Roberts, Medical Director of Desert Dermatology Skin Institute in Rancho Mirage, California. "When detected early, skin cancer is highly curable. That's why people of color need to be aware of their risk and be vigilant about protecting their skin from the sun, as well as seeking help with skin lesions that do not heal."
Still not convinced that skin cancer in skin of color is a real health concern? Here are the facts:
- A recent epidemiological review published by the American Academy of Dermatology showed that the five-year survival rates for African-Americans (78 percent) is significantly lower than that of Caucasians (92 percent)
- Studies reveal that the incidence of melanoma is increasing in Hispanics of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent
- Ultraviolet radiation still remains one of the most important factors contributing to the risk of developing a skin carcinoma among all skin phenotypes
"Many patients think that non-Caucasian people are immune to skin cancer. That is one reason people of color are diagnosed at later stage, meaning that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal," said Dr. Mona Gohara, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.
Because of the common misconceptions about darker skin and skin cancer, studies consistently show that people of color are more likely to wait until the disease has reached an advanced stage to visit the dermatologist, or worse, don't visit the dermatologist at all. One recent study found that non-white patients were more likely to have advanced and thicker melanoma at diagnosis and lower survival compared with white patients.
Darker skin does offer some increased protection against ultraviolet radiation, as people with dark skin have a higher melanin and eumelanin (brown-black pigment) content, which in turn reduces the risk of skin cancer induced by ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure.
However there is considerable skin color heterogeneity among people of color. Considering this, inherent sun protection within people of color varies a lot depending on skin color types and many people aren't even aware of the risks. Recent surveys show that: