Debunking myth about skin tone and skin cancer

Health Smart
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MEBANE, N.C. -- Doctors say out of all the misunderstandings about sunscreen, there is one that may the biggest of them all.

"People with darker skin of all ethnicities think because they don't burn as easily, that they aren't at risk for skin cancer," said Dr. Ana Benitez-Graham of Carolina Dermatology and Skin Care in Mebane. "That is a myth. They may not get a sunburn as quickly as someone with lighter skin, but they're still getting the same damage."

People with darker skin do have more melatonin in the skin which can help ward off wrinkles and help their skin looking healthier, but that's about it.

"The melatonin gives them some protection from the sun, but nearly enough. It's like wearing a sunscreen with an SPF5 for a lighter skinned person, which really does help with wrinkles, but hardly at all for skin cancer."

Dr. Benitez-Graham says people with darker skin are more prone to skin cancers on their hands, the bottoms of their feet and nail beds. "It's very important for anyone, no matter the color of their skin, to wear sunscreen and to pay especially close attention to any spots in those areas."

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