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Skin Cancer Facts That Might Shock You

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Today marks the start of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. For some of us, the age-old saying of “Black don’t crack” has been a free-pass to skip sunscreen and not worry as much about skin care. While it’s true that darker skin provides some protection from UV rays, studies show that when Blacks do get skin cancer, it is often discovered in advanced stages and, as a result, is more deadly.

Here’s a quick look at a few skin cancer statistics from the National Cancer Institute that might shock you.

  • It is estimated that in 2011, 70,230 individuals were diagnosed with melanoma in the United States.
  • It is estimated that in 2011, 8,790 people died as a result of the disease.
  • The most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, is the seventh most common type in American women.
  • Approximately $1.9 billion is spent in the United States each year on skin cancer treatment.
  • A 2006 study looked at more than 1,500 people with melanoma. It found that whites were far less likely to have late-stage melanoma than Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asians.

While these numbers may sound scary, the good news is there are ways to greatly reduce your risk of being diagnosed with melanoma. Here are a few tips from the National Cancer Institute on what you need to know to protect yourself the sun’s harmful rays.

  • Wear a daily sunscreen lotion with UVA/UVB SPF protection of at least 30. Apply the product's recommended amount to uncovered skin 30 minutes before going outside, and apply again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
  • Avoid outdoor activities during the middle of the day. The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When you must be outdoors, seek shade when you can.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants if you’re gong to be in the sun for extended periods of time. Tightly woven fabrics are best.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim all around that shades your face, neck and ears. Keep in mind that baseball caps and some sun visors protect only parts of your skin.
  • Wear sunglasses that absorb UV radiation to protect the skin around your eyes.


In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness month, check back for more news and advice on how you can reduce your risk of melanoma in this month-long series.

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