African Americans face skin cancer risks

According to the American Cancer Society, 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once.

Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have fair skin, freckles, red or blond hair and blue or light-colored eyes. However, darker skin does not exclude anyone from the disease.

Margot Menendez, of Tallahassee, knows that skin cancer has no color boundaries. “I thought black people didn’t get skin cancer,” said Menendez.

A sophomore transfer student, Menendez has experienced the effects of skin cancer first hand.

Although she has not been diagnosed with the disease, skin cancer has been a leading cause of death in her family for two generations.

Menendez’s mother is a fair-skinned Cuban-American, and her father is a dark-skinned black American. So, like most blacks, Menendez thought she was exempt from skin cancer. It wasn’t until she found out about her grandmother and aunt’s battle with skin cancer that she realized no one is exempt.

According to studies by the American Cancer Society, exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays appears to be the most important factor in developing skin cancer.

Overexposure may lead to skin cancer, early wrinkles and other skin problems.

Being in the sun overtime, even without burning, can lead to skin cancer. A tan is the body’s attempt to protect itself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Anisha Nicholson, 20, a senior physical therapy major from Long Beach, Calif., complains of sunburn often. She plays volleyball for the university. Often, her coach will ask the team to train outside in the sun.

“I don’t think he (coach Tony Trifonov) realizes what two or three hours in the sun can do to your skin,” Nicholson said. Although Nicholson hasn’t had any symptoms of skin cancer or sunspots, she is still very cautious.

“I usually put on sunblock before I go to practice just in case,” she said. “But I do wear it every day because it is in my makeup.”

According to the American Cancer Society, the number of skin cancer cases has risen in the United States in the last few decades. Studies show that more than one million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration made these guidelines to help protect the health of consumers:

Put a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 on your skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.

Be sure to put sunscreen on your eyelids, lips, nose, ears, neck, hands and feet.

Continue to put on more sunscreen while you’re in the sun. Read the label to see how often to put it on.

Do not use a sunscreen on babies under 6 months old.

On children older than 6 months, use a sunscreen every time they go out.

Wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim, to help shade the neck, ears, eyes and head.

Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays.

Cover up with loose, lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants or long skirts when in the sun.

Avoid artificial tanning methods. This includes sunlamps and tanning beds, as well as tanning pills and tanning makeup.

Check skin regularly for signs of skin cancer (e.g., scars, rashes, etc.)