Magazine article Essence

Brown Skin Gets Cancer Too

Magazine article Essence

Brown Skin Gets Cancer Too

Article excerpt

Now that summer is finally arriving, you can t wait to slip into sandals. shorts and bathing suits and head outdoors. But take note: Even though brown skin can have nearly three to four times as much melanin (the skin's pigment and natural SPF) as white skin, it can still sunburn, and enjoying the sun unprotected increases your cancer risk.

"Many incorrectly think dark skin is immune to skin cancer," says Marcy Street, M.D.. a dermatologist in Okemos, Michigan. That assumption can prevent us from taking precautions and may be why many African-Americans diagnosed with skin cancer get the news in the disease's later-more dangerousstages. Bob Marley suffered this fate when a sore under his toenail, thought to be a soccer injury turned out to be an aggressive melanoma, The disease claimed the musician's life at age 36 The most common of all cancers, skin cancer comprises two types: melanoma and nonmelanoma, according to Street. Although melanoma represents a small percentage of cases, it's more serious and aggressive The good news is it's highly curable when caught early.

In addition to keeping an eye our for changes to the skin on your arms legs and other exposed parts, it's important to zero in on places you'd least expect skin cancer would strike to reduce your odds of developing the disease.


A recent study shows that cases of melanoma of the head and neck have dramatically increased in the past few years, largely due to UV exposure. That's because few are willing to slather sunscreen on their scalp. Hair can also conceal changes to the area, like moles and dark spots, making it harder to spot skin cancer on the scalp until It has spread or advanced to later stages.

SAVE YOUR SKIN: Since sunscreen doesn't do your coif any favors, floppy hats and scarves are fashionable ways to shield your scalp from the sun's rays. "Cover your head if you're outdoors for longer than 30 minutes." says Tia Olds, M.D., a radiation oncologist in Albany, New York. "Not just when you're at a game or the beach getting constant exposure, but if it's partially cloudy, too. UV rays are still present on overcast days and when It's cold." If you aren't keen on covering up your do, then apply mineral powder makeup with SPF to your scalp. And for early detection, ask your hairdresser if she notices moles, bumps or color blotches that weren't there before or that have changed.


It's tough to apply sunscreen to eyelids or skin around your eyes, leaving that skin at risk. Skin cancer can also occur behind the iris, says Charlotte Akor, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Abilene, Texas.

SAVE YOUR SKIN: Wear sunglasses with lenses that offer UVA and UVB protection year-round to shield your eyes and the surrounding skin, says Akor. For an added layer of defense, use eye creams that contain SPF.


"Ears are usually forgotten about, so they rarely get sunscreen," says Olds. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports less than 33 percent of people use sunscreen and ears are commonly missed.

SAVE YOUR SKIN: Unless you wear a hat that completely shades your ears when you're outside, Olds says, you need to apply sunscreen to them.


Beneath toes and fingers is one of the most common places melanoma appears on AfricanAmericans. Genetics can increase the risk of developing it, but manicures may also play a role. …

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