It is a common stereotype that African Americans do not need sun protection. Due to darker pigmentation (known as melatonin), it is believed that the purchasing of sun block and/or sunscreen is unnecessary. The University of Michigan, surveying 2,187 African Americans living in California, published such a study that displays this concept in February of 2010. The results from this study showed that 31% of the study population reported the use of such sun protection items as sunglasses, sunscreen, and hats. However, 61% of the study population reported that they never use any form of sun protection. Could these statistics be due to the fact that African Americans believe that they are not at risk of contracting skin cancer? While it is true that African Americans are at a lower risk of contracting skin cancer such as melanoma compared to the Caucasian population; African Americans are more likely to die from melanoma.
The detection of melanoma within the African American population unfortunately occurs while it is already in its advanced stages. This is mainly due to the UV rays of the sun being able to penetrate the lightest and least protected areas of the body. The soles of the feet, fingernails, and palms are most at risk for skin damage because they are the areas least guarded by melatonin.
With all this being said, what can African Americans do to protect themselves from the harmful rays of the sun? The following list provides some useful tips
Use sunscreen with a broad-spectrum sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
Put sunscreen on at least 20 minutes before going outside. Be sure to cover the most exposed areas such as the back of the neck and the areas covered by your clothes such as the stomach and back
Re-apply the sunscreen (or use a water proof version) after swimming or playing a sport
Be sure that all family members wear sunglasses and hats to protect your face and neck
Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water
Any changes in the skin (such as a mole or unhealed sore) should be immediately reported to your doctor
So, to answer the question: Do African Americans need sun protection? In short, yes! However regardless of skin color, it is important to note that everyone should practice sun protection. Whether dark skin, light skin or medium skin; the use of protection against the sun is key for enjoy a fun-filled, active and skin healthy summer.