As I mentioned in my About Me section on Facebook, my husband is African American. It was relevant for me to point out. (If you haven't read how the name Light Skinned Mother came about, you can read it here) and it's relevant for this post.
I grew up with close friends of many different races and ethnicities- African American, Caucasian, Japanese, Cuban, Middle Eastern, Filipino, I could go on and on. I taught at a mostly-black school for 4 years and I was sponsor of the Ebony Club at the last high school I taught at for 7 years.
Why am I telling you this?
I am pointing all of this out because I am friends with the majority of those people in life and on Facebook., and yet, although I am constantly promoting my blog, I think only a FEW of them have read it. At first, I was about to take it personally, and then it occurred to me:
They don't think THEY can get skin cancer!!
I must admit, even with my half-Latina background, my dark hair and dark eyes, I did not think I was a likely candidate for skin cancer. I also had several people make that comment when I was diagnosed, including some doctors. Since being diagnosed with melanoma, I've had a few conversations that helped lead me to this conclusion.
This conversation was between my husband and me, early into my SPF tirade:
Me: You should be using sunscreen, you know?
Me: Just because you're black, that doesn't mean you can't get it.
Me: (working hard for a reaction) You know, Bob Marley died from it.Mr. LSM: Look at where he lived. All they do is sit out in the sun.
This is when I walk away before I start running my mouth in anger.
I received a message from a friend right after my first blog post:
Friend: So can anyone other than Caucasians get melanoma?
Me: Yes. Bob Marley died from it.
Friend: Bob Marley was half white.
Me: Just read this (and I sent him a link to some info online)
This is when I decide that maybe I need to find more examples than Bob Marley.
This was a conversation we had with the man who tinted my car windows a few weeks ago. My husband spoke to him the day before, telling him that I had had melanoma so it was important I got the windows as dark as possible.
Tint guy: I was telling my wife about you last night. (then looks over at my husband) Did you know WE can get it, too?
Mr. LSM: Yes. yeah, wonder who told him that
Tint guy: That's crazy! I never knew that.
And this is when I decide that just maybe not everyone knows that ANYONE can get skin cancer.
So, I am taking it on as my responsibility to educate the naturally not-so-tan AND those who are naturally tan.
Here are the most recent facts from Skincancer.org
Notice the last 3 facts. Why is this so?
While skin cancer is less common among people with darker skin, it is often detected at later or advanced stages. In fact, data show that when African Americans and other minority Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer, it is usually at a later stage, when the disease is harder to treat. This later diagnosis occurs partly because many people—even doctors—have long assumed that the pigment melanin in darker skin can protect against skin cancer. However, although melanin does help prevent sunburns, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can still damage skin.This is from a great article on how to Protect the Skin theSkin You’re In by the National Cancer Institute. Everyone should read it.
So yes, it IS rare but it DOES happen. Do you really want to be that person? The person who knew someone with melanoma, who had every opportunity to learn about what to look for, but chose not to because you thought "It won't happen to me."
I didn't think so!
Educate yourself. Know what to look for! Don't let it creep up on you.
There may not be a cure,but until there is one, I plan on stopping this beast in its tracks!
Also check out this video on Minorities and Skin Cancer Awareness.