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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Skin Cancer in People of Color

Melanoma continued...

"The biggest risk factor is a first-degree relative with melanoma," Chipps says. If a parent, sibling, or child of yours has melanoma, your chance of getting it is 50% higher.

If you are African-American, Asian, Hawaiian, or Native American, melanoma is most likely to show up in your mouth, under your nails, or on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet. If you're Hispanic, it’ll usually be on your feet if you're dark-skinned and on your trunk or legs if you're lighter-skinned.

Protect Yourself in the Sun

Brown skin does give you a leg up on skin protection. It has more melanin, the pigment that gives you color. Melanin helps protect against sun damage. But alone, it’s not enough:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30.
  • Don’t go in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Avoid getting sunburned.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that filter out UV radiation.
  • Don’t use tanning beds, which make your chances of melanoma nearly four times greater.

Check for Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

Examine your skin head to toe every month. See a dermatologist if:

  • The shape, size, or color of a new or existing mole changes.
  • You have brown spots on your hands, soles, or under your nails.
  • A cut or wound bleeds, oozes, or crusts, doesn't heal, or lasts longer than a month.
  • You have anal or genital warts.
  • You have an ulcer, growth, or sore that isn't healing near skin that is scarred or has been inflamed, especially on your legs. Some low-grade tumors may look like keloids, which are harmless areas of excessive tissue healing from wounds.

Have your skin checked once a year by a dermatologist. "A primary care doctor may not be as likely to notice a mole on the bottom of your foot," Johnson says. "A dermatologist can find things sooner, biopsy them quickly, and take care of them early."

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Reviewed on June 23, 2014

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