Doctors hope to increase awareness of skin cancer risks for African-Americans

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by Lucy Butamante - 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on July 21, 2014 at 11:30 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 21 at 11:53 PM

NORFOLK -- It's summer, and naturally - many people are hitting the beach.

Doctors emphasize more than ever how important it is for people to protect their skin from the sun's damaging rays. That's especially true for African Americans. In some cases, melanoma may be even deadlier for those with darker skin.
 
Diane Carr had no idea that the bump on her head was skin cancer. She admits that her thought was: "Black people don't get skin cancer."
 
After years of combing over it and feeling it change, it began to bleed in January. "That's when I finally said I need to get a doctor to see this," says Carr. 
 
Her primary physician sent her to Dr. David Pariser in Norfolk. 
 
"We always see this happen in the African-American community," Dr. Pariser said. "There is this myth that they can't get skin cancer. The danger is that we catch their skin cancer later when it's more dangerous and even more lethal," he said. 
 
The Centers for Disease Control state that the average African-American pigmentation contains an equivalent of 13.4 SPF. Caucasian skin has 3.4 SPF. 
 
Dr. Pariser says that if an African-American has noticed that their skin stays irritated in a certain spot and won't heal, or has a spot that seems to change over time, they must get it checked out. 
 
He diagnosed Carr with squamous cancer cells. The cancer on the side of her face was getting deeper way from her nerves. 
 
"A little longer of a wait and I would have needed radiation. God is good. He showed me the way," says Carr. 
 
The website skincancer.org, advises that you should always use sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 15. Also, the label should say that it has UVA protection. 
 
Unlike the squamous cell carcinomas that most Caucasians develop, those occurring in people of African descent due to scarring or chronic inflammation can be aggressive, and have a higher tendency to lead to metastasis and death. One reason for this is, again, later detection and treatment.
 
More information can be found on skincancer.org  by clicking HERE.
 
You're advised to be examined by a dermatologist if you find any new lesion that bleeds, oozes or crusts, doesn’t heal, or lasts longer than a month.
 
 

 

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