Darker skin also prone to skin cancer

Last Updated: May 19, 2013, 20:02 PM IST

New York: People with darker skin are also vulnerable to the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the Sun and indoor tanning beds, a new study has warned.

Researchers said that fair skinned people are known to be at higher risk for skin cancer and other problems associated with too much exposure to the Sun, but they are not alone.

"Darker skin has more pigment-making cells, which provide some inherent protection against UV rays, but not enough," said Adam Friedman, director of dermatologic research, Division of Dermatology, Montefiore Medical Center.

"This unique biological difference means harmful effects of UV exposure occur more slowly in people of colour, but UV rays are still damaging and can cause cosmetic problems and serious conditions like skin cancer," Friedman said.

While skin cancer is rarer in people of colour, it does occur and can be extremely serious when diagnosis is delayed.

For example, melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans, but people with darker skin are at greater risk of late diagnosis with advanced, thicker melanomas and lower survival rates.

"I advise all my patients to routinely check their own skin for any changes in appearance and to see a dermatologist annually for a full body exam," Friedman said.

Friedman also said traditional sunscreens, especially those containing mineral-based agents like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, do not blend well when used on darker skin and can leave a white, chalky appearance.

He advised people should use SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen products that contain either "micronised" or "nanosised" particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because they blend well into the skin and are highly effective at blocking UV radiation.

"I`ve had patients tell me they don`t use sunscreen because they don`t like the white residue that`s left behind. New sunscreens combine multiple Sun-blocking agents in cosmetically appealing formulations that work together, providing a better sunscreen formula that can blend well into any skin type," said Friedman.

"You can enjoy the best of both worlds ? use sunscreen when you spend time outdoors and take a vitamin D supplement, which is a very effective way to get adequate daily intake," Friedman said.