With summer weather approaching, the usual warnings about skin cancer are not far off. African Americans typically think of melanoma as a white person’s disease and seldom heed warnings about overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Actor Damian Thompson thought that way until a mole on his thigh was diagnosed as skin cancer, according to the New York Daily News.
“For me it was like, it’s not a big deal, it’s just not common for us,” Thompson told the Daily News. In fact, he went to his dermatologist after breaking out in hives and just mentioned the mole in passing. Fortunately for Thompson, his doctor caught his cancer before it started to spread.
“If it’s caught early, the actual prognosis is really good,” said Dr. Hooman Khorasani, chief of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who operated on Thompson.
According to the American Cancer Society, only 1 in 1,000 black people will get melanoma. So Thompson’s case is rare. However, an aggressive form of skin cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma disproportionately affects dark-skinned people.
ALM is typically found on areas of the body with less pigment and less exposure to the sun: palms of the hands, soles of the feet and underneath toenails and fingernails. Those areas are also easy to be ignored. Bob Marley died in 1981 at age 36 from ALM located under his toenail.
Thompson is now urging people of color to visit the dermatologist at the first sign of something suspicious. “In our culture, it’s just something that’s not talked about at all,” Thompson said. “Now I’m aware.”
Read more at the New York Daily News.