Does having dark skin shield me from skin cancer?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

Darker skin types are definitely more protected against sun-induced skin cancer because of the production of melanin, but they are not immune. Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), which is often found on the hands and feet, accounts for 5 percent of diagnosed melanoma cases in the United States. It is the most common form of melanoma in Asians, African Americans, and dark-skinned populations. ALM is one of those hidden cancers - besides the palms and soles, it can lurk in overlooked spots like the mucous membranes of the nose or mouth, in the genital area and under toe and fingernails. Many people with dark skin who get skin cancers are diagnosed at a later stage, when the disease is more aggressive and potentially deadly. Although fewer African Americans develop skin cancer, a larger number of them die of the disease because it's not detected in time. In 1981, the reggae legend Bob Marley died of acral lentiginous melanoma that started underneath his right big toenail. Tragically, he mistook it for a soccer injury and ignored it until it spread to his lungs and brain. He was only thirty-six years old.

Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.