Every Skin Type Needs a Dermatology Expert

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Caring for your skin is vital, regardless of your age or skin tone. After all, the skin is the largest organ of the human body, and it protects us from multiple dangers every day. Knowing your skin type and recognizing signs of a problem are important to practice good skin health.

White People Get More Skin Cancer, But People of Color Have Worse Outcomes

The Fitzpatrick skin type system divides skin tones into six types based on the amount of melanin, which gives skin its color and helps to protect it from sunburn. People with the darkest skin have the most melanin and protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This is important because frequent sunburns are a leading cause of skin cancer.

  • Type 1 burns without tanning. The person typically has pale white skin, light-colored hair, and green or blue eyes.

  • Type 2 burns and will tan, but not easily. Common characteristics include white skin and blue eyes.

  • Type 3 experiences sunburn first that later turns into a tan. This person usually has fair skin, brown eyes, and brown hair.

  • Type 4 tans easily and has a small amount of sunburn. Light brown skin, dark eyes, and dark hair are most common for Type 4 individuals.

  • Type 5 acquires a dark tan easily and rarely develops sunburn. Brown skin, dark eyes, and dark hair are the norm. 

  • Type 6 receives a dark suntan without ever having sunburn. These individuals usually have dark brown or black skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. 

Understanding the Fitzpatrick Skin Type System

People with all skin tones get skin cancer, including those with darker skin and people who have never had a sunburn. White people experience sunburn faster and have a higher incidence of skin cancer. The frequency works in their favor since skin cancer is extremely treatable when detected at an early stage. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) receive a skin cancer diagnosis less often. Still, it is common for them to receive a late diagnosis when the disease is much more challenging to treat. All people should check their skin regularly and report any changes to their dermatologist right away.

Skin Cancer Statistics by Skin Type

  • Skin cancer represents one to two percent of all cancers diagnosed in Black people. These percentages jump to two to four percent for Asian people and four to five percent for Hispanic people.

  • Black people with melanoma, the most severe type of skin cancer, only have a 67 percent five-year survival rate compared to 92 percent for white people. 

  • In up to 75 percent of cases, melanoma appears in People of Color in areas with little sun exposure. Examples include soles of the feet, fingernails and toenails, and palms of the hands.

  • Black patients have three times the likelihood of receiving a late melanoma diagnosis than white patients.

  • The plantar area of the foot is the most common part of the body for skin cancer to appear in BIPOC, representing up to 40 percent of all diagnoses. 

How to Check for Signs of Skin Cancer

Men and women should make a habit of checking their skin from head to toe monthly and visiting the dermatologist annually to check for possible skin problems. Asking someone else to check your back or holding up a mirror will help you complete an inspection of areas of the body that you cannot see directly.

Any new or unusual spot on the skin warrants an immediate call to the dermatologist. For example, a spot that appears darker than the rest of the skin that has grown or changed characteristics in any way could possibly indicate skin cancer. Another common situation is having a slow-healing wound that continually crusts over and bleeds but never truly heals. A patch of skin that feels rougher than the rest and dark lines underneath fingernails or toenails are also common signs of skin cancer.

Be sure not to overlook parts of your body that see little skin exposure, including the bottoms of your feet, buttocks, groin, and toenails. Look inside your mouth as well. Always apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 when spending an extended amount of time outdoors, even in the winter. 

Our Dermatology Professionals are Here to Help

Our dermatology professionals are training to work with all types of skin. Schedule an appointment with one of our skilled providers. They can help you determine which products and treatments are best for your unique skin

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