There’s a common, and dangerous, misconception that people who have darker skin tones are immune from the potential damaging effects of UV rays.
And while having more melanin does provide some protection, anyone who’s had prolonged exposure to the sun is at an increased risk of getting a sunburn or even skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
In fact, a study done by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio found that black people who do develop skin cancer are more likely to die than white, Hispanic, or East Asian patients.
“I think awareness and myths about skin cancer play a large role in this,” Seemal R. Desai, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre told Allure in 2016. “Patients with darker skin tones think, ‘I can’t get skin cancer; [I have] tanned skin.’ But that is actually not true. If patients think they can’t get skin cancer, they don’t look for suspicious lesions and, thus, get a delay in diagnosis and subsequent treatment. In addition, I think access to care and minority health issues play a role as well.”
Thankfully, there’s been a surge of dermatologists who cater to non-white skin in the U.S., but the same can’t be said in Canada.