Skin Cancer is Color-Blind

Elizabeth Siegel, Allure magazine

Here at Allure, we're dead serious about skin cancer, so we think we've heard it (and said it) all before: There's no such thing as a healthy base tan-no matter how quickly you get darker-and even clothing doesn't completely protect you from the sun. But yesterday at L'Oréal's press event on sun protection, I learned some new statistics about common sun and skin-cancer misconceptions among African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American men and women in the U.S.:

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Even though most had previously been sunburned, 65 percent of people surveyed thought they were not at risk for skin cancer, and only 17 percent had gotten checked by a dermatologist! What does that mean for their skin health? Well, melanomas are often caught later on skin of color, and squamous cell carcinoma is able to spread to other body parts 31 percent of the time (versus 4 percent of the time for Caucasians). When you're diagnosed at a later stage, skin cancers are more advanced and more likely to be fatal, said Mona Gohara, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale. She emphasized that anyone can get skin cancer.

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"Acral melanoma, one of the most hidden and deadly forms of skin cancer, is actually most common among Hispanics," said Wendy Roberts, medical director of Desert Dermatology Skin Institute in Rancho Mirage, California. It's often mistaken for a bruise, because it typically manifests as discoloration under a nail. That's exactly what happened in the case of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, she explained. He thought he had a soccer injury, and was diagnosed too late.

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Sisters of all shades, do yourselves a solid. One love. One heart. Let's get together and feel all right, because we've gone to a derm and slathered on the SPF!


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