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Health Team

Skin cancer not just for white, blue-eyed people

Posted July 6, 2009 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2009 7:20 p.m. EDT

— Fair-skinned, blue-eyed people should be more concerned about sun exposure, especially during the summer months.

On the other end of the scale, people with dark skin have a much lower risk of skin cancer. However, that doesn't mean black people are at no risk.

Stanley Evans, 56, grew up thinking he didn’t have to worry about skin cancer.

“We're always told that we have the melanin in our skin that protects us from the sun,” he said.

Evans asked Dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Scales to check out a mole on the sole of his foot. Over the course of a year, it grew slightly.

“They did a biopsy, called me back and told me I had melanoma,” Evans said. (It was a) very big shock, because first of all, I mean, like you say, how much sun gets the bottom of your feet?”

There are three types of skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell tend to appear in sun exposed areas like the head, neck and trunk of the body. But melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, can also appear in unexposed areas.

“Very few people get much sun exposure on the sole of the foot, but that is the leading location for melanoma in people who are darkly pigmented,” Scales said.

A lump of scar tissue remains where Evans' melanoma was surgically removed. He'll continue to come in for follow up exams to make sure melanoma doesn't recur, and he's already made sun screen a daily habit.

“Preferably a #15 and above, and one that's water proof so that it won't wash off,” Scales said.

Though skin cancer is less frequent in black people, when it is detected it tends to be more aggressive and advanced. People should see their primary care physician about any changes to moles or other dark marks on the skin.