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- New Drug Helps Men with Melanoma
- ‘Really, Really Messed Up My Life’
Summer Skin Essentials
We’ve all heard ‘black don’t crack’ when it comes to aging. But what about darker skin and sunburn? Attention people of color, darker skin can indeed become burned by the sun. Sunscreen is a summer essential for all of us.
More melanin in your skin does mean more protection from the sun, but it’s not a guarantee against skin cancer. We should note there are other causes of skin cancer such as exposure to arsenic. Even if you don’t burn in the sun, UV rays can still damage your skin cells enough to lead to cancer. Certain medications (such as Doxycycline) can make you more sensitive to the sun, and some medical conditions that suppress your immune system (such as HIV) can make you more susceptible to developing cancer.
So sunscreen is really all I need, right? Well, not really.
A recent Consumer Reports article found that many sunscreens on the market contain chemicals that may be harmful to people (and some which are associated with cancer!). Retinol and retinyl palmitate, which are an inactive ingredient in some sunscreens, have been associated with skin cancers in mice. Oxybenzone, another ingredient, may interfere with hormones. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles are associated with developmental effects in some animal studies. When buying a sunscreen, it may be best to choose one that contains few or none of those questionable ingredients.
However, it’s more important that you wear sunscreen, that you choose a brand that offers UVA/UVB protection, and that you put on enough of it to cover exposed skin. Not using enough sunscreen in the first place, and not re-applying are what you should be concerned about. The CDC’s Choose Your Cover campaign has some tips to keep your skin healthy. We like them too.
Summer Sun Safety Tips
- Put sunscreen on 20 minutes before going outside.
- Reapply after being in the sun for two hours, after swimming or sweating.
- Use a lot! Sunscreen that is.
- Wear sunglasses; the skin around the eyes is more delicate, and UV rays cause cataracts.
- Cover up! Darker clothes offer more protection.
- Wear a hat, but make sure to put sunscreen on your ears and neck if not covered by it.
- Seek the shade and avoid being out in the sun during midday hours (10 A.M.-4 P.M. daylight savings time).
- Just say no to indoor tanning.
Skin cancer often looks different in people with dark skin versus those with fair skin. African-Americans with melanomas are more likely to have the cancer diagnosed later. Melanoma diagnosed late has a worse prognosis and is more likely to result in death. Make sure you know what skin changes you should look out for, and that you have a health care provider who is familiar with skin diseases in darker-skinned people.