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Early Diagnosis Key for People of Color With Common Skin Conditions

Posted: August 8, 2011

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While basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in Caucasians, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in African-Americans. Typically, squamous cell carcinoma in people of color occurs in sites where there is already damage to the skin, such as a burn or scar. Roberts noted that this type of cancer can look like a non-healing spot or an ulcer in darker-skinned individuals and not look like skin cancer, leading to a delay in diagnosis.

“The lack of skin cancer recognition in patients of color is a real problem and poses a serious health threat if it is left untreated and starts to spread,” says Roberts. “When detected early, skin cancer is highly curable. That’s why people of color need to be aware of their risk and be vigilant about protecting their skin from the sun as well as seeking help with skin lesions that do not heal.”

Acne can leave its mark

Although acne is the most common skin condition and reason that people of all skin types see a dermatologist, Roberts explained that treating the pimples and pustules that aggravate patients is only half the battle in patients of color. In darker-skinned patients, hyperpigmentation—also known simply as brown spots or blemishes—can occur with active acne or after the pimples have subsided. Depending on a person’s skin type, these brown spots can last anywhere from months to years and in some cases never disappear.

“People of color need to know that time is not their friend when it comes to curing acne,” says Roberts. “In fact, the longer they postpone treatment, the more prone they may be to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH.”

Roberts mentioned that there are now a variety of good treatments to treat PIH, and dermatologists determine which treatment will work best based on a patient’s skin type and severity of the condition.