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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Skin Cancer in People of Color

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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