The number of Latinos with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has increased by nearly 30 percent since 1992, according to a study in the July issue of the Archives of Dermatology. The main reasons? A false sense of security against the cancer, which leads to excessive sun exposure and inadequate use of safe-sun practices.
Many of my Latino patients, and even some of my family members, assume that their darker skin will protect them against harmful rays from the sun, and thus fail to take the steps that can prevent excessive sun exposure. The current study noted in particular that Latino’s rarely wore sun-protective clothing, which includes a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and tightly woven long-sleeved pants and shirts.
Other important steps include:
• Thoroughly applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 whenever going out. See our updated Ratings of sunscreens.
• Seek shade when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or when your shadow is shorter than you are.
• Be extra careful when you’re on the water, sand, or snow, since they reflect and intensify damaging rays of the sun.
• Get vitamin D through a healthy diet and possibly supplements, not the sun. See our tips on how much you need, and how to get it.
• Avoid tanning beds. They can quadruple your risk of skin cancer.
• Regularly check your skin for changes, and periodically have a doctor examine it, too. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early. See our story Is it a mole or melanoma? for advice on how to identify skin cancer.
Preliminary Evidence for Mediation of the Association Between Acculturation and Sun-Safe Behaviors [Archives of Dermatology]
—Joseph Mosquera, M.D.