As we make our way through National Cancer Awareness Month, we’re reminded that skin cancer affects different communities disproportionately.
While people of all communities are at risk for skin cancer, BIPOC are less likely to be suspected of skin cancer by their health care providers and have considerably fewer options when it comes to healthy, mineral SPF sunscreen solutions.
Read on to debunk myths about skin cancer in BIPOC and discover prevention tools to keep your skin healthy.
Kendra Pierre-Louis of the New York Times clarifies, “Black people experience sunburn that can be painful and cause peeling. When their skin is exposed to too much sunlight, black people can suffer from hyperpigmentation and visible signs of aging, just like people with other skin types. And, of course, black skin comes in a variety of shades, some of which are more sensitive to the sun than others.”
According to the British Columbia Medical Journal, the melanoma survival rate for caucasian people is 85% while the BIPOC community’s rate is a staggering 58%.
Dr. Perry Robins of the United States Skin Cancer Foundation explains, “While people of colour are less likely to become afflicted with skin cancer, they are much more likely to die from it due to a delay in detection. Therefore, we need to make these populations aware of the importance of early detection, prompt treatment, and effective prevention.”
Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, the two most common active ingredients in mineral sunscreen, create a white cast on the skin. This calls for companies to develop formulations that can camouflage the white cast and be appropriate for people of all skin tones.
Although the industry has a long way to go, we’re committed to creating healthy and effective SPF sunscreen solutions for our BIPOC community.
Skin Cancer Prevention in BIPOC Communities
The easiest and most effective method for preventing skin cancer is shielding your skin from the sun. However, there are other ways to prevent skin cancer in people of colour:
- Use a broad-spectrum (UVA & UVB protection) mineral SPF sunscreen every day
- Reapply your SPF sunscreen every two hours, or more often if sweating or swimming
- Wear protective clothing like hats and long sleeve shirts and pants
- Stay out of the sun during peak hours (11:00 am – 3:00 pm)
The other important aspect of prevention is knowing what to look for. Andrew Alexis, MD, MPH, of the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai West New York explains, “About 50 percent of basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) are pigmented (meaning brown in colour) in darker-skinned patients, and thus easier to miss.”
SELF-EXAMINATIONS FOR BIPOC
While wearing SPF sunscreen and protecting yourself from the sun is important, monthly skin checks are an excellent way to be aware of what changes may be happening to your skin.
Grab a handheld mirror and examine every surface of your skin including under your nails, on the palms of your hands, and under the bottom of your feet. Get a trusted friend or family member to help you with areas like the top of your head and back of your neck. Here’s what to look for:
- Moles, freckles, or dark spots that have an irregular shape, texture, colour, or have changed in any way
- Sores that are taking a long time to heal
- Marks on the skin that are dry, itchy, or bleeding
If you have moles, freckles, marks, or dark spots on your skin, take notes (or even a picture) to monitor if there are any changes during your monthly self-checks. If you notice anything questionable or want to get a more in-depth check, we recommend you book an appointment with your dermatologist.
We understand that there is a long journey ahead to get accurate representation and diversity for people of colour in our industry. We look forward to having a dialogue with our BIPOC community about inclusion in the mineral SPF sunscreen space and will continue to create healthy solutions that perform for every skin tone.