By DR. IVOR HORN
So I got a tweet recently with a link to this YouTube video, “Dear 16-year-old Me,” a piece created by the David Cornfeld Melanoma Fund to raise awareness about skin cancer. Check it out you’ll definitely be moved. I know I was. But when the video ended, I couldn’t help but to ask this one simple question: Where are the people of color? It's no slight to the folks who made the video or their mission, but when I see things like this it makes me worry. Why? Because when we don't see images that look like us in these information-packed skin cancer awareness and prevention campaigns, we think the deadly illness doesn't apply to us.
But it does; AFRICAN AMERICANS GET SKIN CANCER TOO! And when we do, as with so many other illnesses, by the time it is discovered, it is at a more advanced stage and our prognosis is worse. A study here in Washington, D.C., found that African Americans with melanoma were more likely to have advanced disease when diagnosed (32% at Stage III/IV vs. 13% for Whites). In addition, our five-year survival rate is worse 59% compared to 85% for Whites.
So why am I, a pediatrician, talking about this? Because every year I have someone bringing their child in for a painful red rash that they can't explain. And when I tell them it's a sunburn, they look at me like I have two heads. I'm accustomed to it now so I just laugh and say, Yes, a sunburn! Then I remind them that while our beautiful brown skin does mean than we have less of a chance of developing skin cancer, the rule that a significant sun burn in childhood increases our risk of developing skin cancer in the future still applies.
So please lovely parents of all the beautiful brown babies out there: Go get some sunscreen for you and for your brown babies. Put it on them in the morning just like you use lotion to fight the ash, and give them a small tube to put in their bag so they can reapply it during the day. Other helpful tips you should know about sun protection for your brown baby:
- Sunscreen isn't just for the beach. Even on a cloudy day we need protection from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- When choosing a sunscreen remember: You need broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB; use sunscreen with at least a moderate SPF (sun protection factor) 15-30
- Don't forget to reapply: 15 to 30 minutes before heading out and about every 2 hours while outside.
- Make sure you get all the exposed spots “ Don't forget your ears and the head for all the low cut fades!
Recently, I appeared on Good Morning America to give my expert advice on how to protect children from sun-related injuries; take a look for more great information, and then go on outside and have fun this summer safe and protected. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
Ivor Horn is a mom, practicing pediatrician and researcher with several publications in medical journals. She has appeared on the Today show and Good Morning America Health discussing health topics such as childhood obesity, puberty and breastfeeding. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband of more than 20 years and their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @DrIvorHorn.
**Read the MyBrownBaby disclosure for Dr. Ivor Is In here.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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I don’t usually put sunscreen on my boy (but he’s not much for being outside in general anyway) mostly because I worry about vitamin D deficiencies. Do you have any recommendations?
What about the chemicals in some ineffective sunscreens? What about the vitamin D issue? Seems like vitamin D deficiency is likely a bigger concern than a small chance of skin cancer. I would also wonder epidemiologically where the cause of skin cancers in brown and black folks is related to sun exposure or some other cause…
Yes, risk of vitamin D deficiency is higher in darker skinned people and those at higher altitudes but the balance between sun exposure and risk of skin cancer has not been determined. We don’t need to hide from the sun, but we still don’t need to leave our kids out there either.
@Karlo Here’s a link from the National Cancer Institute at the National
Institutes of Health to give you a bit more info.
We do need to be concerned about Vitamin D deficiency – which also has to do with diet and other things that cause our kids to spend a lot more time inside. Sounds like a good topic for another blog.
I know this is an old thread, but I am hoping you will see this and can offer some advice. I have a 15-month old son, and I’ve read that physical sunblocks are best, I should avoid nanoparticles, etc. The challenge is that it seems like the safest sunscreens for young kids are the ones that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are precisely the ingredients that make my son’s brown skin look chalky. Is there a good, safe, nonchemical sunscreen that will smooth onto his skin and give less of a chalky look? Thanks!