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Early Diagnosis Key for People of Color With Common Skin Conditions

Posted: August 8, 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2050, more than half the U.S. population will have skin of color. Recognizing this trend, dermatologists are educating the public about the different ways that common skin conditions appear in various skin tones. For people of color particularly, dermatologists are stressing the importance of seeking care early to get the best results from treatment.

At the American Academy of Dermatology’s Summer Academy Meeting 2011 in New York, dermatologist Wendy E. Roberts, MD, FAAD, who maintains a private practice in Rancho Mirage, Calif., discussed common skin conditions that affect people of color and how their diagnosis and treatment may vary from lighter-skinned individuals.

“As dermatologists, we understand that some skin disorders affect people of color differently, and these nuances are vital in being able to make a correct diagnosis,” says Roberts. “This knowledge allows us to intervene more quickly, which can positively affect the outcomes of these conditions.”

Skin cancer: People of color still at risk

For people of color, skin cancer may not be top of mind as a significant health threat. However, Roberts cautioned that while rarer in skin of color, skin cancer does occur and can be quite serious when diagnosis is delayed.

“Today, more than ever, people of color come from families with mixed heritage where, for example, one parent may be Caucasian and one is African-American,” explains Roberts. “So, someone with one lighter-skinned parent actually may inherit the characteristics of this parent’s skin--and an increased risk of skin cancer. The bottom line is: Just because your skin is darker does not mean you are immune to skin cancer.”