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It’s summer and most of us like being on the beach. Unfortunately, African Americans do not necessarily believe that they can have a sun burn and damage their skin..Don’t buy into the myth, a person with more melanin, or pigment, in the skin is invincible to the harsh effects of ultraviolet rays.

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African American skin has an inbuilt sun protection factor. Such skin does not burn easily and hence one can remain outdoors in the sun for a longer period of time. However a bit of added protection always helps. Application of sunscreen before going outdoors helps to reduce the harmful effects of the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. It is important to examine the skin closely so that irregularities can be detected. It also helps to have the skin tested once every month. Dark spots that suddenly appear or any other skin abnormalities should be reported to the doctor or dermatologist.

In fact, every year more than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer. Although African-Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer than people with fair skin, they are still at risk. Also, the sun is not the only cause of skin cancer.  Many people may not know that there are several different types of skin cancer. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer—both of which are known as non-melanoma skin cancer. Squamous cell cancer is the most common form of skin cancer among African-Americans. Most basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be cured if found and treated early. However, skin cancer may be more serious in African Americans because it is often diagnosed later, at more advanced stages.

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Melanoma skin cancer—a more deadly form of skin cancer—is much less common than non-melanoma skin cancer. Although melanoma is extremely rare in African-Americans, it can be found in unusual locations. In African-Americans, the first sign of melanoma may be an abnormal mole under the nails, on the palms of hands, or on the soles of the feet.

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Protecting your skin and eyes from the sun is the single best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Use sunscreen with a broad-spectrum sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that protects from UVA as well as UVB rays. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating. Avoid exposure to the midday sun (between 10 am and 4 pm) when possible. If you must be outdoors, wear sunglasses that absorb UV radiation, a wide-brimmed hat that shades your ears and neck as well as your face, and long sleeves and pants. It is also important to avoid tanning beds. Finally, be aware of any changes in your skin. If you notice a new mole or other new growth on your skin, changes in the appearance of an old growth on your skin, or a sore that does not heal you should see your doctor.

We all love the summer rays. Remember to take care of your skin.