Wear the Gown: African-Americans and skin cancer

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African-Americans are diagnosed more often with late-stage skin cancer than Caucasians.

SAN ANTONIO — June 21 was the first full day of summer. It is also the time of the year where you have the highest chance of getting a sunburn, which could result in skin cancer.

Most of us know, the fairer the skin, the more likely you could get a sunburn. But when it comes to African-Americans, protecting skin from sun damage is still just as important. Dr. Milton Moore from Sonterra Dermatology told us, “It is important that we break this this misconception that African-Americans or people of color shouldn’t be wearing sunscreen daily.”  

He says he tells his black patients they should get skin checks just as regularly as those with pale skin, especially when it comes to the deadly melanoma. Dr. Moore said, “Which is very rare in African-American population, actually accounts for only 2% of cancer in blacks altogether. They still can get melanoma, but actually black patients get melanoma in places that are not so much sun exposed.” 

Dr. Moore says African-Americans are also diagnosed more often in late stages of skin cancer compared to Caucasians. 52 percent of patients diagnosed with melanoma in advanced stages are black patients, compared with just 16 percent being white patients. Dr. Moore added, “There’s this misconception that the risk of skin cancer is negligible and it really does, you know, hinder the black population.”  

Dr. Moore says another issue facing African-Americans is the disparity in the black population and lack of access to care and African-American dermatologists. Dr. Moore told us, “Some people may feel like they won’t see somebody who looks similar to them, who understands their skin. And then also without the professional, learning in residency and training, depending on where you go to school, you may not see any black patients. So things get misdiagnosed.”  

He also says using a daily moisturizing sunscreen plays a huge role in those with acne, in preventing post-inflammatory pigmentation, which is a thermal burn caused by the sun. 

If you would like to see more of our Wear The Gown stories just head to here.

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