In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness month, we want to squash a persistent and dangerous myth. Many people believe darker skin is naturally safe from sun damage and skin cancer, which is simply untrue.
While those of African, Caribbean, Hispanic, or South Indian descent may be 5 to 25 times less likely to develop melanoma than Caucasians, there is still risk. Protection is imperative, as sun damage may not become visible right away in darker skin—the damage usually stays buried deep in the cells and may not become noticeable until much later, at which point any malignant growth may have progressed farther.
So, what can you do to protect your dark skin from the sun?
If you have dark skin, remember that a painful and unsightly sunburn or signs of aging aren’t the only risks of basking in the sun all day. Follow the tips below to make sure you’re properly protecting your skin and reducing your skin cancer risk:
- Slather on the SPF and make sure to reapply throughout the day, particularly after any water activities
- Don’t let the risk of chalky or lightened skin scare you away from SPF. Check out these sunscreens that won’t leave dark skin streaky or whitewashed
- Stay out of the sun during peak hours, between 12 – 3 PM. This is the perfect time to grab some lunch in the shade—or sip an afternoon cocktail under an umbrella!
- No one wants to don long sleeves in the heat of summer, but you can wear protective clothing that won’t make you feel like an eskimo. Try a stylish hat to shade your face or consider some stylish clothes with UV protection
Because early detection is key in successful treatment of skin cancer, it’s highly important that those with darker skin maintain regular self-examination and check-ups with a dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon.