In the summer months, sitting by the pool or long days outdoors in the sun are expected activities. However, exposing skin to the sun may lead to one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer in Black people and those with darker skin, upending a myth that melanoma is a White person’s condition.
The Washington Post reported on the new cases of melanoma developing in Black people, and how public awareness about the disease has been slow to occur. In the case of Betty Jordan, 69, of Temple Hills, Md., she was clueless about the dangers of melanoma until she received a grim diagnosis of acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) five years ago.
Although Ms. Jordan’s cancerous spot was removed and her prognosis is favorable, many Black and dark-skinned people incorrectly assume that the melanin in their skin is adequate protection.
From the Post:
“It’s true that the vast majority of melanomas occur in fair-skinned people, but it’s important to know that dark-skinned people can get skin cancer, too,’’ says Maral Skelsey, a surgeon and skin cancer specialist who heads the Georgetown University Medical Center’s dermatologic surgery center. “They often are dismissed by their general physicians in terms of risk. I hear it so often: ‘No one told me I could get skin cancer.’ ’’
ALM, while rare overall, primarily strikes people of color — African Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics — and it can be lethal. The disease is most often found on the palms, nail beds and soles of the feet. These are areas of the body that have less pigment and receive less exposure to the sun; they also are locations people are most likely to ignore. Reggae musician Bob Marley died in 1981 at age 36 from ALM, initially thought to have been a soccer bruise under his toenail.
According to findings from the American Cancer Society, 76,100 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, leading to the death of an estimated 9,710.