Sunday, July 18, 2010


Whether you’re mowing the lawn, playing in the pool or enjoying a cookout, there is one constant for everyone – the sun. While African Americans are at a lower risk than other groups for skin cancer, it is still important to use sunscreen.

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, affects nearly 70,000 Americans each year and its rates are rising. Melanoma can be treated effectively when found early, but African Americans’ melanoma often isn’t caught until later stages when the survival rate is much lower. Although recent advances in treatment, such as the drug ipilimumab, have extended survival, the best approach is prevention.

“Although dark-skinned persons have an increased protection from the sun, they are still susceptible to the damage that the sun can do to the skin,” said Janice Bonner, an aesthetician in Richmond. “Sunscreen is the best protection, she said, and “although there are cosmetics that may have some form of sunscreen, the SPF in the cosmetics is not sufficient in getting the job done.”

ABCD skin cancer rulesSkin cancer screenings are available in Richmond at Thomas Johns Cancer Hospital, 1401 Johnson-Willis Drive. For more information call 804-320-3627.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the rate of new cases of melanoma among African Americans in the United States is low, with only one out of every 100,000 diagnosed with melanoma from 2000-2007. That is the lowest rate of all races, including Asian and Hispanic. Whites had the highest rate of new cases at 24 per 100,000. In Virginia, an average of 212 people died of skin cancer each year between 2002-2006.
Although Blacks are much less likely than Whites to get melanoma, only 61 percent of Black Americans diagnosed with melanoma live 5 years, compared to 93 percent of Whites. The main reason: later diagnosis.

Although melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, other forms of skin cancer are much more common. The American Cancer Society and the NCI recommend that every person, regardless of skin color, take precautions:

· Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

· Seek shade: Look for shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun's rays are strongest. Practice the shadow rule and teach it to children. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.

· Slip on a shirt: Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you are out in the sun.

· Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen and lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen (about a palmful) 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply after swimming, toweling dry, or perspiring. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days.

· Put on a hat: Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck. If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.

· Wrap on sunglasses: Wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption to provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.

Because a person’s risk of melanoma increases with lifetime sun exposure, adults need to take extra precautions to protect children and grandchildren. Parents and grandparents should check children regularly for moles or other spots on the skin and help them apply sunscreen. At the next family reunion, bring hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen for everyone to use.

For more information about skin cancer prevention and detection, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at or the American Cancer Society at

Erica Lee, Richmond correspondent for the Ozioma News Service, contributed to this story.

About Ozioma: Ozioma is a national cancer news service based in Missouri. It is funded by the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. Ozioma provides minority media outlets with information about cancer risks, treatment and prevention with a focus on taking action to improve health in African-American communities.

For more information, visit our Web site at:

For immediate release Contact: Tim Poor Phone: (314) 935-9398

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