In our last blog post we explored the issue of skin cancer in people with skin of color and how, although it is not as highly talked about in the press, it is still a common problem for people with skin of color. Importantly we highlighted that the number of African-Americans dying from melanoma or skin cancer is on the rise due to the fact that the cancer is often found in the deadliest of stages.
Today we want to tell you how you can prevent the worst from happening – we want to educate you on how best to check for signs of skin cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you perform a full body skin exam on yourself once a month and that you have one done by your doctor/dermatologist once a year. It is advisable to check your skin on a monthly basis as many melanomas on dark skin are found on poorly visible areas. If you find any suspicious, changing, or new mole or freckle anywhere on your skin you should make an appointment with your doctor.
What exactly should you be looking for? An easy way to remember the signs of melanoma is by the ABCDEs, 6 a memory‐aid for how to evaluate pigmented lesions:
A ‐ Asymmetry. Pigmented lesions should look the same on both sides when folded in half.
B ‐ Border irregularity. The borders should be smooth and regular‐‐usually round or oval in shape.
C ‐ Color variation. The presence of more than one color within a skin lesion can be a red flag.
D ‐ Diameter. Size of greater than 6mm or about the size of a pencil eraser should also raise concern.
E ‐ Evolving. Any change in an existing mole or skin lesion may be suspicious for melanoma. Also, because of the higher incidence of melanoma in a fingernail or toenail in people of color, the “alphabet of nail melanoma” is a useful guide for self and physician examinations7:
A ‐ Age range 20‐90 years African‐American, Native American, or Asian
B ‐ Band of Brown or Black pigment in nail OR Breadth of >3mm OR Border that is irregular/blurred
C ‐ Change in size or growth rate of nail band OR lack of Change in irregular nail despite treatment
D ‐ Digit involved (nail melanoma is most common in the thumb>big toe>index finger) Pigmented band on a single Digit is more suspicious Dominant hand involvement is more common
E ‐ Extension of brown or black pigment to the side or base of the nail
F ‐ Family or personal history of melanoma or irregular moles In addition, any pigmented lesion that looks different than the majority of one’s moles and freckles (i.e., an ‘ugly duckling’) should be evaluated.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “When skin cancer is diagnosed in people of color, it is often found in areas of the skin that are not typically exposed to the sun. Specifically, the bottom of the foot is where 30 to 40 percent of melanomas are diagnosed in people of color.’ You should also seek medical help if you find any brown spots on the hands, soles, or under the nails.
If caught early these can be removed, but if left untreated the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Take a look at this video from Fox News which tells the sad story of Terran Hubbard who passed away from skin cancer in 2012. When somebody accidentally stepped on his foot Terran didn’t think twice about not letting his injured tow nail heal properly, and because Terran waited too long to see his doctor about it the cancer unfortunately had spread to his lungs and brain.
Please share this post with friends and family to help educate people of color that they are at risk of getting skin cancer too, and to check themselves regularly! #HealthySkinisHappiness