June 6, 2013 at 5:01 PM
By Norwood News
Fair skinned people are known to be at higher risk for skin cancer and other problems associated with too much exposure to the sun, but they are not alone. People of color also are vulnerable to the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun and indoor tanning beds. During National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month and throughout the summer, people of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to learn about their skin cancer risk and the benefits of sun safety.
“Darker skin has more pigment-making cells, which provide some inherent protection against UV rays, but not enough,” said Dr. Adam Friedman, M.D., director of dermatologic research, Division of Dermatology, Montefiore Medical Center. “This unique biological difference means harmful effects of UV exposure occur more slowly in people of color, but UV rays are still damaging and can cause cosmetic problems and serious conditions like skin cancer.”
Friedman was among the nationally recognized skincare experts invited to speak at the 5th annual Skin of Color Seminar, a medical symposium focusing on the top dermatologic issues for patients of color. His presentation focused on sun protection for skin of color and included the following important information for patients to keep in mind:
• While skin cancer is rarer in people of color, it does occur and can be extremely serious when diagnosis is delayed. For example, melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans, but people with darker skin are at greater risk of late diagnosis with advanced, thicker melanomas and lower survival rates.
• Traditional sunscreens, especially those containing mineral-based agents like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, do not blend well when used on darker skin and can leave a white, chalky appearance. Fortunately, new formulations are available. People should use SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen products that contain either “micronized” or “nanosized” (meaning small) particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because they blend well into the skin and are highly effective at blocking UV radiation.
• People often say they avoid sunscreen because it prevents them from getting vitamin D from the sun, which they believe is the best source. While vitamin D is very important, getting it from harmful UV radiation is not the way to go. Remaining vigilant about sun exposure is a must, especially during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“You can enjoy the best of both worlds – use sunscreen when you spend time outdoors and take a vitamin D supplement, which is a very effective way to get adequate daily intake,” Friedman said. “Sunscreen alone is not enough to protect you from skin cancer. I encourage all my patients to seek shade, and wear hats, sunglasses and protective clothing.”
• Sunscreen ingredients become ineffective over time, so make sure the products are current.
“Sunscreens have expiration dates, so throw away any products if you question when they were purchased,” he said.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and accounts for nearly half of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. Although risk levels vary among skin types, preventive measures can significantly minimize sun damage and the potential for skin cancer to develop.
–Source: Montefiore Medical Center