Should Black People Wear Sunscreen?

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Little heralds the arrival of summer time just like the odor of open water, smokey grills and sunscreen.

Since the late 1970s, as medical researchers linked solar publicity to pores and skin most cancers, Americans have been advised to dutifully slather, spray and rub on sunscreen as a part of a broader package deal of solar safety. But does it make sense for me, a dark-skinned black lady, to put on it?

With record-breaking warmth this summer time, it’s an particularly related query, and also you may even count on the reply to be “absolutely.” It’s extra difficult than that.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s official place on sunscreen, which is echoed by the Food and Drug Administration, is that everybody, no matter pores and skin tone, ought to put on it as a result of, “anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race.” But as a result of individuals of coloration are sometimes not noted of medical trials and coverings, there’s little or no analysis out there about dark-skinned individuals and pores and skin most cancers, which raises questions on who’s being thought of when organizations make these public well being suggestions.

People whose skin is naturally brown when it has not been exposed to sunlight “are quite resistant to skin cancer,” Dr. Weinstock said.

When dark-skinned people do get skin cancer, as Bob Marley famously did on his big toe, it tends to appear on “the palms of the hand and the sole of the feet,” said Dr. Adewole Adamson, a dermatologist and the director of the pigmented lesion clinic at The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell School of Medicine.

According to Dr. Adamson, the fact that dark-skinned people are most likely to get skin cancer on the areas of the body that are least likely to be exposed to sunlight suggests that this cancer is unrelated to sun exposure.

“If UV exposure was such a problem for skin cancer, you’d see a massive epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa,” he added. “They don’t have the same level of sunscreen promotion that they do here. And you hear nothing about it because there probably is no association.”

Kurunthachalam Kannan, the deputy director of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in New York State’s Department of Health, Wadsworth Center, was the lead author on a study that looked at the correlation between chemical sunscreen use and endometriosis, a condition that affects the uterus.

Dr. Kannan’s study found that women who used more sunscreen that contained benzophenone or oxybenzone, two estrogenic compounds, had higher levels of the chemicals in their urine, and had higher rates of endometriosis. Dr. Kannan said he considers chemical sunscreen use something of a double-edged sword. It potentially provides protection from skin cancer, but it can also affect estrogen levels, which could lead to a variety of diseases.

These findings are part of why Dr. Adamson thinks there needs to be more discussion around the particular risks and benefits of wearing sunscreen, especially for people with dark skin.

“As I was looking at all this stuff, I’m like, there’s nothing on people of color in here and yet I see this messaging saying, ‘Hey, wear your sunscreen,’” Dr. Adamson said.

In a statement, the American Academy of Dermatology said that “while there is strong evidence to show all skin types benefit from sun protection to reduce sunburn and aging, research is emerging that explores the relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer in people of color.”

The organization has appointed a working group to review current science in the area, and to “assess our messaging on skin cancer and skin of color based on the latest research.”

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