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Most people with dark skin naturally presume that because of their skin colour they do not need to take any precautions in hot weather. However, most of you would be surprised to know that you can burn, although it will take longer to do so than light skin. Burnt skin can lead to cancer. It is time to wise up. Yes, dark skin tans and can sunburn too.
Whilst skin cancer rates are significantly lower in people of colour compared to Caucasian people, you could still be at risk. According to the American Cancer Society, the annual incidence of melanoma is 5 in 100,000 for Hispanics and 1 in 100,000 for African-Americans, compared with 26 in 100,000 for Caucasians.
There are two types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, which is less common but dangerous, and non-malignant melanoma, which is less severe. Those with black skin are more likely to suffer from malignant melanomas on the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands. Quite often, these are not sun-related, but whatever your skin colour is, you still need protection.
Dark skin has built-in natural protection from the sun called melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its colour. It protects the body by absorbing some of the Ultra Violet (UV) rays in sunlight which can damage the skin, and the more melanin, the fewer UV rays that can penetrate. However, dark skin’s natural SPF does not offer enough protection against the risk of skin cancer. And be warned; skin lighteners can break down the natural protection of melanin, heightening the cancer risk.
Melanin increases in response to sun exposure, and the skin gets darker, but the tan is not protecting your skin but is, in fact, a sign of sun damage. This is because UV exposure causes cell damage, and the body produces more melanin as a protective mechanism.
Signs of sunburn include red skin that feels hot and painful. In addition, skin damage can cause sagging of the skin, loss of volume from the face, and hyper-pigmentation. If you are worried about any changes, see your doctor or dermatologist.
Sun worshippers are all at risk of getting cancer regardless of ethnicity or skin tone. Therefore, they must take precautions, especially if they already have a skin disease such as vitiligo.
Always keep the skin well moisturised to prevent it from drying out, and use sunscreen with a low SPF.
Do not sit in the midday sun; this is when it is at its strongest. When sunbathing or at high temperatures, apply sunscreen and re-apply every two hours or after being in the water. Be sure to select a sunscreen that does not look ashy on your skin.
Remember, sunscreen lotion provides only partial protection. It cannot be applied all over the face, such as the eyes, which needs to be protected with sunglasses but remember they do not offer protection from UV rays. The skin around the eyes is still vulnerable to sunburn.
Always take precautions not to sunburn.
Main image: Olly