After a long stressful winter, and a historic spring, our summer creeps in quietly. Amidst the pandemic and political unrest we can at least enjoy the summer somehow, and have the sun brighten our day.
The sun in all its glory also comes with some harmful electromagnetic rays that is linked to accelerated aging and some skin cancers. The sun emits X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared and even radio waves. Over time high exposures to these rays leads to premature aging of the skin, sun damage such as fine lines, wrinkles, leathery skin and even more.
About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet UV radiation from the sun. Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are mostly thought to cause skin cancers. This is even more so for UVB rays due to having slightly more energy than UVA rays. These rays cause damage to the DNA in skin cells directly leading to long term skin damage, sunburns and skin cancers.
Did you know skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide? Data from American Cancer Society (2019-2021) noted that the rate of cancer in non-Hispanic blacks is 1.2 compared to 34 in non-Hispanic whites.
While the incidence of skin cancer is lower in the Black community, late-stage melanoma (a type of skin cancer) diagnoses are more prevalent among Hispanic and black patients than non-Hispanic white patients; 52 percent of non-Hispanic black patients and 26 percent of Hispanic patients receive an initial diagnosis of advanced-stage melanoma, versus 16 percent of non-Hispanic white patients.
Although skin cancers are less prevalent in Blacks compared to the White population, when they do occur they present at a more advanced stage and portents poorer prognosis. This disparity stems from lack of awareness, poor photo protection and skin health literacy.
What can we do to protect our skins from the harmful rays of the sun? The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends these steps to prevent skin cancers.
- Apply sunscreen generously – SPF 30 or higher, to protect from UVA and UVB. Special attention to apply enough sunscreen to cover areas not covered by clothes.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours after swimming or sweating.
- Stay in a shade when possible
- Wear protective clothing when in the sun. Including a wide brim hat
- Pay attention to any mole on your skin especially if growing, changing in size, shapes or becoming asymmetric. Visit your dermatologist.
Prevention and early detection saves lives. Knowledge is power, wear your sunscreen. Enjoy the sun and please be sure to maintain your social distance while we overcome this pandemic together
- What to Look For ABCDES of Melatoma. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved on 9 Jun 2020. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/find/at-risk/abcdes
- Agbai et al. Skin Cancer and Photoprotectionin People of Color: A Review and Recommendations for Physicians and the Public. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Apr; 70 (4): 748-762.
- Hu S, Soza-Vento RM, Parker DF, et al. Comparison of stage at diagnosis of melanoma among Hispanic, black, and white patients in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Arch Dermatol 2006; 142(6):704-8.