There’s a perception that only Caucasian people have to worry about skin cancer, but, because there is a false sense of security amongst people with darker skin, the signs of skin cancer are often missed or diagnosed at a much later stage, when it is more aggressive and more difficult to treat. This is according to Dr Kgabale, a Dermatologist at the Clinix Health Group, a leading private hospital group in South Africa.
South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world with mortality rates higher in people with darker skin. “While it is true that people with darker skin have a much lower risk of skin cancer than those with lighter skin, skin tone definitely does not make anyone immune to certain types of cancers,” he warns. “Sadly in South Africa, people with darker skin seldom take steps to protect themselves when they are in the sun resulting in the late diagnosis of skin cancer. These delays mean that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers are curable if caught and treated in a timely manner. The fact is that people of all races are urged to protect their skin from sun damage, a leading cause of skin cancer.”
Kgabale reiterates the importance of checking your skin regularly. “If you notice any rapid changes in the appearance of a mole, freckle or even a patch of skin, you should visit your doctor. Pay particular attention to the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. These are the most common sites for malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of cancer, in dark skin,” he says.
A few simple sun safety steps, such as staying out of the sun between 11:00 and 15:00, ensuring you don’t get sun burnt, covering up with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses, and always using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 will help protect your skin from the sun.
“The sun is dangerous, because it can also damage your eyes, age your skin and reduce the effectiveness of your skin’s immune system. Get sun smart today and help reduce the alarming statistics of skin cancer prevalence in our country,” concludes Kgabale.