Written by E. McDonald, UF student
We often take for granted the sensitivity of our body’s largest organ. Skin cancers are a lot more common that you might think. In fact, figures from the American Cancer Society show that annual cases of skin cancer outnumber annual cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. Put into numerical terms, one in five Americans will someday develop skin cancer, as indicated by research from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Like other types of cancer, once skin cancer spreads throughout the body, it is much more difficult to treat and can become fatal.
Fortunately, skin cancer is easy to cure if detected early. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing a head-to-toe skin self-examination at least once a month to seek out any spots, moles, or freckles that have newly appeared or changed size, color, or texture. When you know what you’re looking for, a careful monthly inspection can be potentially life-saving! A step-by-step guide on skin checks can be found here.
Many people, even some health care professionals, think that dark skin protects people from skin cancer. This common misconception has deadly consequences, as skin cancer in people of color is frequently diagnosed when its already in its later, more dangerous stages. The truth is that anyone is susceptible to skin cancer regardless of skin tone. Black people specifically have much lower melanoma survival rates compared to other groups in part because of delays in diagnosis, as shown by recent research published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology.
In general, having dark skin may reduce your chances of burning, but UV radiation is not the only factor that contributes to skin cancer. Skin cancer can develop in any area of the body, even in places not exposed to the sun! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanomas often crop up underneath nails, at the bottom of the feet, and on the palms of the hands in Black, Asian, and Native American populations — hence the importance of full body self-examinations.