Skin Cancer Prevention Month, which is the month of May, may not be of the utmost concern to many people of color, particularly because we have hardly seen skin cancer be an issue for us.
In addition, we have always been told or under the impression that our melanin, the black or dark brown pigment in our skin, hair, and iris of the eye, protects us from the dangers of the sunlight. But does our melanin protect us from melanoma?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer, with over 5,000,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States (US) and striking one in five people by the age of 70.
Skin cancer most often develops from exposure to the sun, resulting in the abnormal growth of skin cells that form a mass of cancer cells, but at times can develop in other areas not exposed to the sun.
Melanoma, one of the three major types of skin cancer, is the most serious form, although rare but resulting in less than 200,000 cases annually in the US.
It develops in the cells that produce our melanin and gives us color. For the cases of those exposed to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun, there are about 85% of melanoma cases.
It is not common, but it is possible for Black people to develop skin cancer. In the few cases of those who are diagnosed with skin cancer, the news comes in later stages, when it can be life-threatening, because the symptoms are as not as recognizable.
The five-year melanoma survival rate for Black people in the US is 65% in comparison to 91% for white people, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.