Skin Cancer Awareness

Portrait of happy African American parents with son in swimmingMay is the beginning of summer and “Skin Cancer Awareness Month.”  How much do you know?

Everyone is at risk from skin cancer, and African-Americans can develop skin cancer too.

There are several kinds of skin cancers, non melanoma (basal cell and squamous cell) and melanoma.  Basal cell cancer grows slowly and develops on parts of your skin that have been in the sun — most often on your face.  It does not usually spread to other parts of your body.  Squamous cell cancer is the most common form of skin cancer among African-Americans.  It can develop on parts your skin that may or may not have been in the sun.  It can spread to lymph nodes and organs.  Melanoma is less common than squamous cell and basal cell, but it is a more a deadly form.  Melanoma develops less often in African-Americans and is most often found on the soles of our feet, on the palms of our hands and under our nails.

Source: “African Americans Can Get Skin Cancer:  This Summer, Protect Yourself,” National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health, Posted 06/30/2009 (viewed May 27, 2014).

Protecting your eyes and skin from the sun is the best way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.  Here are some tips:

  • Avoid sun during midday — during the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30.  Apply it generously.
  • Wear a hat with a 2-3 inch brim
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • Protect your children from the sun and keep babies under 6 months old out of the sun and protected with hats and protective clothing

Source:  “How do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?” American Cancer Society.  (Viewed 5/27/2014)

Finally, babies’ bodies may not be developed enough to handle sunscreen chemicals, so ask your doctor before putting sunscreen on children under 6 months old.

Source: FDA “Sun Safety: Save Your Skin,” “Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually.” (viewed May 27, 2014)


–Janell Mayo Duncan


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