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Think sunscreen is only for your Caucasian friends? Think again. Yeah, people with pale skin are more likely to get skin cancer, including melanoma, but African-American women can develop these conditions, too. Get the facts so you know how to protect yourself -- and what danger signs you should watch out for.
Your skin absorbs the invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the sun's rays, which causes skin cancer, eye damage and premature aging. African-Americans have high levels of melanin, a dark pigment, in their skin. This gives you some protection from UV rays -- you won't get a sunburn as quickly as super-pale redheads, for example -- but it doesn't protect you completely.
Squamous cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer among African-Americans. You can get squamous cell cancer in sun-exposed areas, like your legs, or areas that don't receive sunlight exposure. Squamous cell cancer can spread to your lymph nodes and organs, too. African-Americans don't develop melanoma as frequently as other races, but when they do develop this type of skin cancer, it usually develops on the palms of hands, soles of feet and under the nails.
When to See a Doctor
Skin cancer is often treatable, but early detection is important. Examine your skin once a month and see a doctor if you notice an abnormal mole, a change in a mole or a new skin lesion. Moles that have ragged, fuzzy edges, have varying colors, aren't symmetrical or itch are more likely to indicate melanoma.
Prevent skin cancer and sun damage, including sunburns, by wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every time you go outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Wear shades with UVA and UVB protection to protect your eyes, and try not to get too much sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.