The number of minorities in the US is increasing every year, and so is skin cancer rate, mostly due to late stage diagnosis. According to a latest study, minority groups, ethnicities and immigrants in South Florida have very little education about skin cancer and its devastating effects on health.
The researchers surveyed 206 participants using a 23-question survey meant to assess their knowledge on skin cancer and its associated risks at a large, free medical clinic in Florida. The surveyors also asked about their understanding of basic skin care and skin care against sunray damage. The results were published in JAMA.
The surveyors asked questions in English, Spanish or Haitian creole as to clearly reach their audience’s level of understanding. All of the participants were insured and 200% below poverty level.
75% of the 206 participants were women who worked indoors. Almost 25% of the participants had never heard of skin cancer or melanoma. Nearly half, 44.3% to be exact, had never conducted a self skin examination. 20.7% of the participants believed that dark skin complexions were immune to skin cancer.
Three quarters, which was 75.7% of respondents, fell into the “low/inconsistent” sun protective behavior category. Most common barriers preventing positive sun-protective habits were “using sun protection is too hot” which was selected by 75 participants (39.3%) and “I forget”, selected by 72 participants (37.7%). 175 participants, which equaled to 87.9% to be exact, wanted to educate themselves more about how to prevent skin cancer. The participants preferred watching a video (37.3%) and text messaging (30.8%) as their most favored instructional methods.
Prevention interventions such as SunSmart, a massive public education campaign originating in Australia, have successfully targeted behavior change in Caucasian populations who are at a greatest risk of developing skin cancer.
But since there are very limited campaigns focusing on ethnic minorities and underprivileged individuals, the researchers decided to raise awareness on this matter and explore the best learning tools available.
Skin cancer has been on the rise in ethnic minorities. Hispanics have seen a 22% increase in skin cancer rates since 1992, which is increasing by 2.9% annually. Moreover, the minority groups were at a higher risk of stage 4 melanoma and thicker malignant melanoma tumors, which cause higher mortality rates in blacks and Hispanic melanoma patients.
Since its been estimated that minority population is likely to reach over 50% by 2044, its extremely important to safeguard their health and educate them on the dangers of skin cancer, and how they can better protect themselves.
Email was the least favorite method of learning, due to most participants being uneducated or not having access to internet. However, 84% of households earning less than $30,000 per year did have access to a cell phone. Hence it was decided that text messaging would be an appropriate medium for relaying educational information.
There are no recorded skin cancer interventions using texts for underprivileged communities. However, a recent multicomponent intervention using texts sent to caregivers was associated with increased sun-protective behaviors in children. The researchers believed that texting would prove an effective tool in raising awareness among the underprivileged communities.
The researchers also pointed out that ethnic, regional and cultural factors did play a significant role in how the minority groups perceived the skin cancer interventions. This study proved that more research-tested intervention programs are needed in underserved communities to effectively improve overall health of these communities.
Another huge misconception is that sunblock can protect against skin cancer and melanoma. This has been proven wrong as melanomas increased despite the use of sunblock. Sunblock might not protect against this harsh cancer but they can protect against sun burns, skin wrinkling and non-melanoma skin cancers.
Not long ago, sunblock ingredients were controlled by pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies which led to different varieties of sunblock, ranging from SPF 10 to SPF 110, which led to a lot of confusion for the average consumer. These sunblocks contained ingredients that interfered with the second layer of the skin while disrupting body’s hormonal balance, giving birth to free radicals, causing DNA mutations and many other harmful diseases.
The FDA was hesitant in giving any recommendations against or for their safety while European regulators were lax on them. Finally, in May 2015, FDA cut short the safe sun blocking ingredients list. This decision coupled with the previous regulation for safe SPF answered many questions, only to create few new controversies.
The past approved list has now been further cut down by FDA to 16 sun blocking ingredients while European market has allowed 37 sun blocking active ingredients.
The safest ingredients for your sunblock are avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, zinc oxide, homosalate and titanium dioxide. These ingredients are recommended by FDA and European regulators. They are being regularly used by consumers with no firm controversy against them.
It is recommended that you use your sunblock whether it is sunny or cloudy and avoid direct sun exposure between 10 am to 2 pm. Try covering your skin with clothes in direct sun.
Reapply sunblock after 2 hours. And if you are in water, for example if you are in the pool or on the beach, reapply between 40 to 80 minutes.