Sun Safety to Lower Risks for Skin Tones

As summer starts to wind down, people may think it’s OK to start lowering their guard against the sun’s rays. Just as this belief is incorrect and dangerous, so is the belief that people of Native American, African Americans, Latinos, Middle Eastern and Pacific Rim descent can rely on the natural pigments in their skin, without considering sunscreen, to avoid risks associated with sun exposure. Just as with those with darker skin colors, there are options for light skinned people that they might not be aware of.

The team at Comprehensive Cancer Centers has treated people of all ethnic and geographic backgrounds for cancers such as melanoma, and can attest to the fact that exposure to sun’s rays merit caution for everyone that calls Southern Nevada home at all times of the year.

Skin Cancer Risks and Ethnicity

As noted, Comprehensive has treated many people of many ethnicities for skin cancer, and according to a 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, of all racial groups, non-Hispanic African Americans had the lowest rates of melanoma diagnoses, but they were also the most likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, which lowers treatment success rates.

Another area of concern for those with dark skin is their elevated risk for acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM). With increased sun exposure in our climate, and lower percentages of sun exposure risk mitigation, this cancer can occur and go undiagnosed by those suffering from the melanoma.  Musician Bob Marley died of ALM when he was only 36.

Warning Signs for Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM)

As with all cancers, early detection is key to better treatment outcomes. Comprehensive urges patients with dark skin to be mindful of the following warning signs for ALM, while also conducting monthly self-exams.

  • A bump, patch, sore or growth that bleeds, oozes, crusts, doesn’t heal or lasts longer than a month.
  • An ulcer, scaly red patch, wart-like growth or sore that sometimes crusts or bleeds could be a sign of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • New or existing moles that are asymmetrical, have an irregular border, more than one color, are larger than a pencil eraser or change in any way.
  • Spots on the hands, soles of the feet or under the nails.

Additionally, certain skin cancers, such as ALM, can be caused by factors other than sun exposure, including genetics or environmental influences, and may occur on parts of the body rarely exposed to the sun.

Sunscreen Options for People with Dark Skin

Many sunscreens can leave those with dark skin looking like they’re covered with chalk and uncomfortable with their appearances. Fortunately, several companies have recognized the need for sunscreens for those with dark skin and are offering new products specifically for these audiences. Many of the risks of sun exposure, and new products designed to help, were featured in recent story from Fast Company. The story featured some of the following new products, focused on African-American women:

  • Bolden Skincare – a SPF moisturizing sunscreen formulated with ingredients like safflower oil and Vitamin C that was both sulfate and paraben-free.
  • Black Girl Sunscreen – a natural SPF 30 for African Americans.
  • Unsun Cosmetics – an all-natural mineral sun protectant.

There are a number of other sunscreens that are made for dark skin, as well as other skin types. Ask your dermatologist for recommendations.

Sunscreen Options for Those With Light Skin

Whereas people with darker skin tones might not be aware of risks associated with the sun and skin cancers, those with very light skin might not be aware of options for sunscreen specifically made for their needs. A few options include:

As with any other product for your skin, it is recommended that you consult with your dermatologist to ensure you’re using the best option for your skin safety.

Lowering Cancer Risks by Being Sun Smart

Reducing cancer risks for those that spend time in the sun – no matter their skin type – can be accomplished by using the following tips:

  • Enjoy Some Shade – When you’re outside, protect yourself by staying in the shade. It’s especially important to stay in the shade during the hours of the day when the sun is highest and brightest in the sky, like mid-afternoon.
  • Hats and Sunglasses – Cover up with loose clothing, wide brimmed hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses when you’re in the sun.
  • Sunscreen – Wear sunscreen, all year long (more on that next)

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers provide a variety of treatment options including for the treatment of skin cancer and melanoma. To learn more about signs, symptoms and treatment options, visit our website. To schedule an appointment with the team at Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.