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Skin Cancer Risk Factors Among Dark Complexions | Affinity Health

Affinity Health, leading providers of affordable healthcare, examine how complexion influences your chances of developing skin cancer.


How Does Complexion Affect Risks of Cancer?

South Africa’s geographical location and level of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) place the population at a higher risk of skin cancer.


Sadly, we have the second-highest incidence of skin cancer globally. This is after Australia, who have over 20 000 cases recorded each year and 700 deaths (among Caucasians). However, when it comes to darker complexions and skin cancer, what do statistics say?


Contrary to some beliefs, it is simply not true that people with darker skin are immune to skin cancer. Those with darker complexions can and do get skin cancer, with an incidence rate of skin cancer in dark complexions amounting to one in every 100 000 people.


Skin cancer is not a frequent occurrence among people of colour. However, cases do tend to be more advanced and ultimately more challenging to treat in incidences where it does occur. This is because, often, skin cancer isn’t diagnosed in those with darker complexions until its later stages.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 25 percent of melanomas in those with dark complexions go unnoticed and are only diagnosed after the cancer has already infiltrated deep into your skin and spread to surrounding lymph nodes.


What is Skin Cancer?

The National Cancer Institute defines skin cancer as “an uncontrolled growth of skin cells that mutate and multiply in an unorderly way.” New skin cells are formed when existing skin cells die or become damaged. When this process fails, a fast proliferation of cells occurs.


This group of cells could be noncancerous (benign), meaning they don’t spread or harm you, or cancerous, meaning they can spread to neighbouring tissue or other parts of your body if not discovered and treated early.


Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the three most common kinds of skin cancer. Most skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and the legs. But skin cancer can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day.


Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is more likely to develop in places not exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, among people with dark skin tones. Melanoma can even develop on the surface of your eyes!


What Are the Signs & Symptoms Of Melanoma?

Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.


A new mole or a change in the appearance of an existing mole is frequently the first indicator of melanoma. However, it’s important to note that only about 30% of melanomas begin in existing moles, while the rest start in normal skin.


While skin checks are included in standard health check-ups by some doctors and other health care workers, it’s crucial that you examine your own skin (head-to-toe) at least once a month for any suspicious lesions, growths, marks, or patches.


See your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you notice:
  • A large brownish area or spot with darker speckles
  • A mole that changes in colour, size, or feel
  • A mole that bleeds, or oozes
  • Wart-like growths that emerge suddenly
  • Open sores that may have crusted areas
  • Flat, firm, pale, or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black
  • Small translucent, shiny bumps
  • A painful lesion that itches or burns
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips, or toes, or mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, or genitals


“Keep in mind that not all changes in the skin are the result of skin cancer,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “If after examining your skin your doctor suspects skin cancer, he or she will likely recommend further tests to confirm the diagnosis. ”


The A-B-C-D-Es Of Melanoma

For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:

  • A is for Asymmetrical:Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • B is for Border:Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • C is for Colour:Is the colour uneven?
  • D is for Diameter:Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • E is for Evolving:Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?


The Importance of Early Detection

In addition to regularly checking your skin for suspicious changes that can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages, it’s important to always practice skin cancer prevention.


Affinity Health recommends that you and your loved ones: 
  • Try to stay indoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as this is when the sun’s rays are the most intense, especially in summer.
  • Don’t use UV tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps. For a bronze look, rather use instant tan lotions.
  • Wear sun protective apparel, such as a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking clothing and sunglasses with a protection rating of UV 400 when outside.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
  • Use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater for extended outdoor activities.
  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of the body thirty minutes before heading outside and after swimming.
  • Keep infants under the age of six months out of direct sunlight and use sunscreen for babies above the age of six months.
  • Have a professional skin exam at least once a year with a dermatologist.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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