Since I have red hair and fair skin, I’ve always been extra cautious when it comes to being in the sun. I wear sunscreen daily, and even with that protection I rarely lounge around in the sun without some sort of shade. My husband, on the other hand, is three-quarters African American, and convincing him to put on sunscreen is always a challenge.
Skin cancer is more common among Caucasians, but dermatologists warn that people with darker skin are still at risk. In a recent article from HealthyDay News, Dr. Valencia Thomas of the Harris County Hospital District in Texas notes that while the skin pigment melanin does offer people with darker skin some natural protection against ultra violet rays and sunburns, too much sun exposure can still increase the risk of skin cancer.
According to the hospital news release, malignant melanoma in African American and Asian populations is most commonly located on hands and feet, while among Caucasians and Hispanics, it's found on the legs and back.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer for Hispanics and Asians, and second-most common among blacks and South Asian Indians. A symptom of basal cell carcinoma is a growing bump with blood vessels that tends to bleed easily, which could be dark brown or black for those with darker skin.
For South Asians and blacks, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. The disease appears as firm bumps, sometimes with a thick scale. Among South Asian Indians and blacks, this type of skin cancer is found on the legs or the genital areas, and is strongly linked to sun exposure.
So while my husband’s risk of sun cancer may be slightly lower since he has a lot more melanin, he still needs to be careful to avoid too much sun exposure. Like everything else, moderation is the key. And next time he refuses to wear sunscreen, I will direct his attention to this very blog!