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If This Sounds Like You, You Are at Risk of Skin Cancer

Everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, but the risks vary on skin type.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Soaring temperatures are an opportunity to remind people of color, in particular, that sunburn and skin cancer can impact them as well, which has been a major myth within the community. Although sunburn affects Caucasians more, 65.6% of people, the American Cancer Society cites people of color are often diagnosed with skin cancer at a later stage, which can lead to increased complications and morbidity.  

Everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, but the risks vary depending on skin type. Non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are associated with ultraviolet (UV) exposure. These type of skin cancers often occur on sun-exposed areas. Sunscreen can potentially help reduce the risk of skin cancer development. While skin cancer is less common in patients of color, the risk is not zero. Patients of all skin types can benefit from sunscreen as it not only helps to prevent certain skin cancers, but it can also can minimize signs of aging and hyperpigmentation. 

Melanomas can develop from pre-existing moles on the skin or they can develop completely out of nowhere  (or de novo if that sounds better). Melanomas can occur all over the body, but are more common on the palms, soles, and nails in patients of color. If they are caught too late, they can be deadly, so it is important to see your dermatologist regularly. Read on to find out who is at risk—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You Have a High Number of Moles

Dermatologist examining moles of patient

If you have greater than 100 moles, you are at a higher risk of skin cancer and you should be seen regularly by a dermatologist. A higher number of moles serves as an independent risk factor for malignant melanoma. 


You Have Pale Skin

Girl with birthmarks on the neck

If you have a lighter skin complexion and burn easily, you are at a higher risk for skin cancer and should be seen regularly by a dermatologist. Pale skin, blonde or red hair, and blistering sunburns all serve as risk factors for melanoma. 


You Have Moles on Your Nails

worried woman looking at hands fingers

If you have any moles on your nails or on the soles of your feet, you should be seen by a dermatologist. African Americans, in particular, tend to have worse outcomes with acral lentiginous melanoma, a severe form of melanoma on palms and soles.  


You Have a Family History of Skin Cancer

If you have a strong family history of melanoma, you should be seen regularly by a dermatologist. Patients with a family history of skin cancer may have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. 


When to Contact Your Doctor

doctor and patient having a somber conversation

If you are concerned by any mole on your body whatsoever, you should visit your local dermatologist. ABCDEs of melanoma include asymmetry, border irregularity, color (multicolor), diameter greater than 6 mm, and evolution. If your mole has a concerning feature, you should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. 

Dr. Prince Adotama is a dermatologist at NYU Langone Health.

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