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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Is That a Beauty Mark or Skin Cancer? A Common, Deadly Mistake That Many African Americans Make

Black woman with skin cancer

Yes, African Americans can develop skin cancer. Just because their skin is dark does not exclude them from melanoma and other types of skin cancer. In fact, there is one skin cancer that mostly affects African Americans, and it is dangerous.

A common myth

Skin pigment does not protect blacks from getting skin cancer. Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds, which means anyone, regardless of skin color, can develop skin cancer.

African Americans, especially, need to watch for a particular skin cancer that is aggressive, and therefore dangerous. It is acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), an aggressive cancer that disproportionately affects all dark-skinned people, including African Americans.

What to look for

Beauty marks may be the fashion, but they need to be monitored closely. Any changes may indicate the potential for skin cancer. Here is what to look for:
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type of cancer appears as lesions that look like sores. When they develop on the lips and ears, they have a higher risk of metastasis, and can be fatal.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: The most common skin cancer. It mostly remains in one spot, at the origin of the tumor, but basal cell carcinoma that develops on ears or lips can extend to the lymph nodes and even the lungs.
  • Actinic Keratosis: This type of skin cancer is often mistaken for eczema because it looks pink and flaky. It is mostly located on the face, hands, or arms and continues to reappear.

How to protect yourself

Even dark-skinned people need to protect themselves when going out in the sun. Be sure to use sunscreen, and wear protective clothing and hats. There is even evidence by a Harvard Medical School study that showed women who drank three cups of caffeinated coffee every day decreased their chances of getting basal cell carcinoma. The bottom line is, take precautions and never assume you are immune to skin cancer.

DISCLAIMER: The content or opinions expressed on this web site are not to be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or medical practitioner before utilizing any suggestions on this web site.