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African American woman's face in the sun with UVA and UVB rays represented on her.

What you need to know to prevent skin cancer


It’s a common myth that people with darker skin tones don’t need to wear sun protection, but harmful UVA/UVB rays from the sun penetrate all skin tones and types. This is a dangerous misconception has led to dramatic statistics. For instance, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “late-stage melanoma diagnoses are more prevalent among Hispanic and black patients than non-Hispanic white patients.”


It doesn’t stop there. Here are a few facts about skin damage in darker skin tones that can help prevent deadly skin cancers.


  • Skin cancer can develop in unusual or unnoticeable spots. People with darker skin tones more commonly develop skin cancer in underexposed spots. It’s important to regularly check palms, soles of feet, underneath nails and under arms for new or unusual spots.
  • Annual skin checks by a physician can cut melanoma deaths in half. Diagnoses are often delayed because of the common myth that darker skin tones cannot develop skin cancer. It’s important to detect skin cancer as early as possible, when it is easiest to treat. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing self-examinations monthly, in addition to seeing a dermatologist annually.
  • Scarred areas can develop into skin cancer. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the majority of skin cancers in African-Americans is squamous cell carcinoma, often developing in areas of preexisting inflammatory skin conditions or burn injuries. Keep an eye on these areas for any change in condition and provide consistent sun protection.


While these facts may be daunting, skin cancer is the most preventable cancer. Practicing sun safety daily is essential in prevention. Wear (and reapply) a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher daily. Look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation. Seek shade and cover up, especially during the hours of 10am and 4pm. Make habits of these safety measures for a lifetime of healthy skin.