We may not be hitting the tanning beds in record numbers, but the beautiful tones and hues of Black skin aren’t exempt from the damaging effects of UV rays and risks of skin cancer. In a new report released Tuesday, acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak warns that sun safety applies to everyone, even if you’re not fair-skinned.
“We know that the risk level for skin cancer decreases with more skin pigmentation,” said Lushniak. “But no one is immune. All races are still diagnosed and still affected by UV rays.”
The new report cites that unlike other forms of cancer, skin cancer rates in the U.S. continue to rise. Nearly 5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancer each year, at a cost of $8.1 billion, the report says. A reported 63,000 cases are the most serious kind, melanoma.
The fast-spreading melanoma is considered the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma accounts for only 2% of skin cancer cases but is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. However, it has a 96% cure rate when detected early.
Yet the mortality rate remains higher for African Americans.
“It is unclear if racial differences in melanoma mortality are related to delays in diagnosis and medical treatment, or if it represents inherent differences in the aggressiveness of the disease in the skin of people of color,” said Dr. Susan C. Taylor, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology for The College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York.
Lushniak is calling skin cancer a “major public health problem” and says that too much exposure to indoor and outdoor UV light is the primary cause.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing and using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to reduce the risk of skin cancer.