ZocdocAnswersCan people with darker skin tones get skin cancer?

Question

Can people with darker skin tones get skin cancer?

Is it true that people with darker skin aren't at risk for getting skin cancer? I'm a man of color and I have heard everything - from websites that say it's nothing but an urban legend to doctors who said it was completely true. Am I at risk or not?

Answer

It is true that skin cancer is less common in people with darker skin due to the protective effect of melanin, however, there is still a risk. Unfortunately, African Americans often get diagnosed at an advanced stage of skin cancer when a cure is less likely. There is more than one type of skin cancer. Squamous cell cancer is the most common in African Americans. This type of cancer is usually curable, however, it may be more serious is African Americans when compared to whites. Melanoma is rare but is the most serious and potentially fatal type of skin cancer. Melanoma is much less common in African Americans but when it does occur it is much more serious. Melanoma also appears in different areas in African Americans, tending to appear on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and under the nails. It is important no matter what type of skin you have to use caution from the sun to prevent skin cancer. Stay out of the sun during midday, wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses, and never use tanning beds. If you notice any abnormal moles or changes in your skin, see your primary care provider or dermatologist.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.