Skin cancer: not just for pasty-skinned folks

As a light-skinned, blue-eyed redhead I’ve been careful about sun exposure since childhood. When I started going bald in my early 20s I got even more serious about it. People laugh at my broad brimmed hat, sunglasses and long-sleeve Sun Precautions swimshirt, but most understand by looking at me that these are reasonable measures. Even with these measures I sometimes get more sun than I want.

I wasn’t surprised to see Skin cancer is universal in today’s USA Today. The message: it’s not just people with my complexion who can get sub damage and raise their risk of skin cancer through overexposure. Many Hispanics and African Americans think they don’t have to worry about sun exposure or skin cancer (whether caused by the sun or not). While it’s true that the risk is a lot lower for someone with dark skin, the risks are still there and tend to be overlooked.

When it comes to melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer, a lack of concern can be deadly. Studies show that though blacks and Hispanics are much less likely than whites to get melanoma, they are much more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage and die from it.

One recent study of 41,072 melanoma patients in Florida found advanced cases in 12% of whites, 18% of Hispanics and 26% of blacks

“This is a tragedy because it’s preventable,” says Claudia Hernandez, a dermatologist in Chicago. “Unlike a lot of cancers that are internal and cannot be seen, these are cancers that can be caught at an early stage.”

According to the article, the American Academy of Dermatology is sending spokespeople out to do interviews with radio stations that are popular with African Americans and Hispanics. That’s probably a good idea.

On the other hand the African American oriented radio show I listened to this morning while driving through Milwaukee (The Tom Joyner Morning Show) did a disservice to its listeners by airing an ad for Super Beta Prostate, using an empathetic African American pitchman to sell an herbal supplement with unsupported therapeutic claims.

July 12, 2010

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