Blacks Can and Do Get Skin Cancer

Can blacks get skin cancer? The short answer is yes. It is very rare for African-Americans to get melanoma, but too much exposure to the sun can cause several health problems for people with darker skin.

Alicia Bergeron, community manager of health initiatives for the  American Cancer Society, said, "They can also cause cataracts and other eye problems as well, and though African-Americans who are dark-skinned are less likely to get skin cancer than light-skinned individuals, they can still suffer from the other damaging affects of UV rays."

There are nearly 200 melanoma patients listed with the Tumor Registry at Memorial hospital in Lufkin. Three of those patients are black. Despite the risk, black children and adults are still less likely to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays when outside.

Roshunda Bass of Lufkin resident said, "I really don't think about putting [sunscreen] on them. [But] I give them lots of water to drink and lots of fruits and vegetables and make sure they stay in the shade a lot."

People with darker skin tan easier than those with lighter skin, and tanning is still a form of skin damage because UV radiation is being absorbed. The American Cancer Society has three steps to prevent melanoma and other problems caused by UV rays.

"Slip on a shirt to cover your body. Slop on some sunscreen - preferably SPF 15 or above - and the third thing is slap on a hat," Bergeron said.

Whites are ten times more likely to get skin cancer than blacks, because their skin is less likely to block out the sun's damaging rays. But they are also more likely than blacks to be diagnosed with the disease in its early stage because of quicker identification and evaluation of irregular moles. However, both blacks and whites have a good chance of beating the disease if it is detected in time.