Melanoma in People with Darker Skin

man reading book to son and daughter

Melanoma in People with Darker Skin
By: Hanna Sutton

Melanin is the brown pigment responsible for giving African Americans their darker complexion and for giving most Caucasians tan skin when they are exposed to sunlight. Increased melanin production in African Americans offers some protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, but more melanin does not offer complete protection. Ultraviolet (or UV) rays can damage DNA in any unprotected skin.

In a survey conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation in 2016, 63% of African Americans reported having never in their lives used sunscreen. This survey feedback is alarming. African Americans are particularly susceptible to acral lentiginous melanoma (ALMs) which are extremely dangerous forms of melanoma that have a strong genetic component. ALMs are often found on hairless parts of the body such as the soles of the hands, under nails, or the palms of the feet. Though these body parts are not heavily exposed to UV rays, ALMs can emerge and spread quickly. Jamaican singer Bob Marley died at the young age of 36 from an ALM that originally emerged on his toe.

African Americans should look for these potential markers for skin cancer:

  1. Black stripes on the nails
  2. Sores that do not heal or bleed spontaneously
  3. Moles that appear to grow or change in any way
  4. Asymmetrical moles or moles with pigment that extend past the border (making the border ragged or blurred)
  5. Multiple colors in one mole

If it’s been over a year since your last skin exam or if you have noticed any of the potential markers above, call Derick Dermatology today to schedule your next skin check in our Arlington Heights, Barrington, Crystal Lake or Elgin location. We will examine you from the top of your scalp to the tips of your toes to ensure your skin’s health and wellbeing.