While every kind of cancer of the skin is less common in people of colour, their outcomes are dramatically worse. Whether or not you get sunburnt, you can get cancer, meaning people of all colours, including those with brown and black skin, can get cancer.
Unfortunately, because irregular blemishes or moles are harder to notice on darker skin types, the development of cancer in people of colour is often diagnosed at a late stage. This makes the severity and risk of illness worse should the person have melanoma.
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes. Melanoma is dangerous because of its ability to spread to other organs more rapidly if it is not treated at an early stage. Treatment for any form of cancer will be difficult within the late stages.
Found early, most skin cancers, including melanoma, may be cured.
There is also a lot you can do to scale back your risk of getting skin cancer.
Check your hands and feet – In darker skins, 70% of melanomas have been reported to be on the lower limb, with 90% of those being below the ankle. The most common subtype, acral lentiginous melanoma, appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
There are two main categories of skin cancer, namely, melanoma and non-melanoma.
Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but it is the most dangerous. It is of special importance to note that excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation received as a child increases the risk of melanoma later in life. Melanoma is linked with short, sharp bursts of over-exposure, so even one incident of a bad sunburn, especially in childhood, can later on in life, trigger damage and develop into a melanoma.
Former Mrs South Africa, Nicole Capper, a skin cancer survivor stated:
“As a cancer survivor, sun protection is a massive focus for me. Being diagnosed with malignant melanoma at 25 rocked my world, but I was lucky to have caught it early enough. We’re so aware of other potential health concerns and we make sure we visit specialists annually for other standard check-ups, and yet our skin is neglected for the most part, often until it’s too late. Sunscreen is always healthy. And regular dermatologist appointments should be mandatory. We owe it to our families and communities to stay healthy, and our skin is no exception.”
Tips to prevent skin cancer:
- Stay in the shade.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone” but there are always harmful UV rays
You still are required to protect your skin (especially your face and neck) all year round – even in winter when the sun doesn’t feel as harsh. It’s not a myth – you can get sunburnt on a cloudy day if your skin is not protected! The danger of winter is that the summer sun, which is often your reminder to apply (and reapply) sunblock, is no longer there. Please be safe outside.