Here’s Who Gets Skin Cancer

Which skin type is vulnerable to skin cancer? Who is at risk for skin cancer? Answer: Everyone.

What disease killed Bob Marley, the famous reggae icon? Answer: Skin cancer, specifically melanoma.

After seeing a plethora of skin cancers in the past summer, I strongly recommend that everyone schedule a full-skin examination by a board-certified dermatologist this fall.

One common myth is that only certain skin types are susceptible to skin cancer. Caucasians do have a higher risk of skin cancer than the general population.  But people with brown or black skin get it, too.  Skin cancer strikes people of African, Asian, Latino, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern , and Native American descent.  Even if you never sunburn, you can get skin cancer.

The first signs of skin cancer can vary, depending on your skin type:

Skin cancer in Asians:  The most common sign of skin cancer in Asians is often a roundish, raised brown or black growth. Skin cancer also shows up in other ways,  so be sure to check your skin carefully for any changes.

Skin cancer in Blacks:  In people with brown or black skin, skin cancer often develops on parts of the body that get less sun, such as the bottom of the foot, lower leg, and palms. Skin cancer may also begin under a nail, around the anus, or on the genitals. It’s important to check these areas.

Skin cancer in Latinos:  Skin cancer can appear on the skin in many ways. If you have a growth on your skin that is getting bigger, a patch of scaly skin, or a dark streak under or around a nail, make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

When skin cancer develops in people of color, it’s often in a late stage when diagnosed. This can be deadly when the person has melanoma, which spreads quickly. Treatment for any type of skin cancer can be difficult in the late stages.

The good news is you can find skin cancer early. Found early, most skin cancers, including melanoma, can be cured. There’s also a lot you can do to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.  One tip:  Ask the person who cuts your hair to tell you if you have a growth or odd-looking spot on your scalp.

The best way to find skin cancer is to check your own skin.  We’ll talk about how to do that next time.