Can darker-skinned people get skin cancer?

bob marley

With May being #SkinCancerAwarenessMonth there is a lot of information and true stories surrounding the topic of skin cancer, but most of the conversation is centred around caucasians. What is not commonly talked about or even believed is that people with skin of color can be affected too. Everyone is susceptible to getting skin cancer.

Most skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun or tanning beds, and many people of color are less susceptible to UV damage thanks to the greater amounts of melanin (the protective pigment that gives skin and eyes their color) darker skin produces. But people of color can still develop skin cancer from UV damage.

Additionally, certain skin cancers are caused by factors other than UV — such as genetics or other environmental influences — and may occur on parts of the body rarely exposed to the sun. For example, darker-skinned people are more susceptible to acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), an especially virulent form of melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer) that typically appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Who can forgot the legendary Bob Marley? He infact died at the age of 36 as a result of a skin cancer when a malignant melanoma was found under the nail of his toe, which when ignored spread throughout his body. And Theresa Merritt. She was an American actress who appeared in the film ‘Billy Madison’ who also died from skin cancer. And let’s not forget the President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, who died from various forms of cancer, including skin cancer.

People with skin of color are at risk of developing skin cancer. What is shocking to discover is that the mortality rates from skin cancer of people with skin of color are actually higher! Typically this is because people with skin of color often assume they are not at risk, and their cancers tend to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage and patients often face a bleaker outcome. The five-year survival rate for African Americans is 73 percent, compared with 91 percent for Caucasians, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The team at EXTRASHADE are passionate about healthy skin, and this month we want to help create awareness of the affects and causes of skin cancer for people with skin of color. If you have ever been affected by skin cancer please get in touch by emailing info@extrashade.com to share your story. Help spread the message of #HealthySkinisHappiness.

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