White skin, black skin, olive skin or brown – that sounds like the beginning of a nursery rhyme, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s a reminder from the dermatologists at Downstate LICH that the color of your skin doesn’t matter when it comes to cancer. Anyone can get skin cancer and everyone should protect themselves.
Melanin is the substance that determines skin color. Genetics play the largest role, although environment probably does, as well. The only natural way in which skin color can change is through exposure to the sun. Dark-skinned people naturally have large concentrations of melanin in their skin, which protects against many – although not all – of the sun’s harmful rays. Melanoma, or cancer of the skin, is particularly deadly, and over 75,000 people, including children, are diagnosed with it each year. Light-skinned people don’t fare as well. I read a sobering statistic that people with light skin get skin cancer ten times as often as those with dark skin. On the other hand, melanomas in darker-skinned people can appear in “hidden” places such as the soles of the feet and thus be overlooked.
I mentioned skin color earlier. The one you do not want is that ugly orange color that comes from artificial tanning. Our Downstate LICH derms recommend steering clear of tanning booths.
Still, we love the warm weather and want to be out in the fresh air at this time of year. Sitting at home with a video game all day isn’t healthy, either. Happily, we can enjoy the season and still protect ourselves. Are you familiar with the Australian Slip-Slop-Slap program to prevent sunburn and skin cancer? You slip on clothing that covers exposed skin, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. The campaign’s easy-to-remember slogan helped to significantly reduce skin cancer rates. Let’s all take that advice to heart and go out and enjoy the summer!
Yours in good health, Debra