Does Skin Type Affect Risk of Skin Cancer?

skin types melaninIt’s commonly understood that having a naturally deeper skin tone will provide some protection from the sun. If you’re less likely to burn you may think it stands to reason that you’re less susceptible to skin cancer. 

It is true that paler skin is more likely to burn and burning increases the risk of skin cancer. However, it is important to remember that nobody is immune from skin cancer – even those with darker skin tones.

Fitzpatrick skin types

The Fitzpatrick scale summarises 6 skin types; ranging from Type 1 – which almost never tans and nearly always burns. – to type 6 which will almost never burn.

  1. TYPE 1 –
    • White skin, ginger or blonde hair; blue, grey or green eyes
    • Burns easily, rarely tans but can freckle
  2. TYPE 2 –
    • Pale skin; blonde hair; blue or brown eyes
    • Usually burns, tan can develop slowly
  3. TYPE 3 –
    • Pale to light olive skin; brown hair; brown or green eyes
    • Sometimes burns, average tan
  4. TYPE 4 –
    • Light-medium brown skin; brown or black hair; brown eyes
    • Rarely burns, tans easily
  5. TYPE 5 –
    • Medium-dark brown skin; Dark brown or black hair; Brown eyes
    • Very rarely burns, tans easily
  6. TYPE 6 –
    • Black skin; Black hair; Dark brown eyes
    • Tans/darkens easily, almost never burns

Type 1 is more likely to develop skin cancer because it has much less melanin in the skin to protect it. Yet type 6 can also develop skin cancer and in fact, it can be the more serious melanoma.

Skin cancer and darker skin

Experts suggest that up to 10-15% of all skin cancer patients have darker skin types. What’s more, these tend to be melanomas rather than non-melanoma.

Melanoma is the less common type of skin cancer in terms of numbers of cases, but they are potentially more fatal and cost twice as many lives as non-melanoma.

What’s more, the majority of Melanoma cases develop from normal skin (60-70%) rather than arising from a mole (30-40%).

This means that it is very important to look not only for changing moles, but also for new blemishes or lesions.

Remember, there is no room for complacency when it comes to sun exposure and self-checking, as no skin type is ever immune from skin cancer. 

ABCDE Rule – Mole Checks At Home

Dr Ross Perry has removed thousands of moles for cosmetic reasons alongside his work in the NHS as a GP and skin cancer reconstruction doctor.

He suggests the ‘ABCDE’ approach to identifying which moles are of potential concern:

  • Asymmetry: a mole that looks a uneven or lopsided
  • Border: mole edges that are jagged, rather than smooth
  • Colour: patchy, varied or unusual tones of colour
  • Diameter: anything larger than the size of a pencil eraser is unusual
  • Evolving: moles which seem to be changing in size, shape, colour or behaviour (e.g. itchiness, discharge, bleeding etc).

Again, it comes back to the ugly duckling rule – a feeling that something is just not quite right or the same as the others. Ross concludes:

“You are not looking for all these symptoms to be present – just one could be a cause for concern.

“The overriding theme is that a suspicious mole is one that just looks ‘wrong’ or ‘different’ to the others and if you have a hunch or any concern that something needs checking out, see a GP for a professional opinion.”

Professional Mole Check

For ultimate peace of mind, Cosmedics Skin Surgery Laser Clinic offer a thorough top to toe mole check carried out by their trained and experienced doctors and surgeons.

Skin Surgery Laser Clinics

Cosmedics’ Skin Surgery Laser Clinic offer private mole removal at a selection of clinics based in London and Bristol. Moles are removed using the latest surgical techniques including laser mole removal; with trained doctors and surgeons. Our team of qualified and experienced doctors and surgeons also treat other skin blemishes, including sebaceous cysts, skin tags, warts and lipoma.

For more information or to book a consultation, please complete the form on this web page or call 020 7386 0464.

Treatment using  freezing, laser or surgical techniques is available at Skin Surgery Laser Clinic who have a selection of locations conveniently based in London and Bristol. All procedures are carried out by highly trained and experienced doctors and surgeons.

For more information or to book a consultation, please complete the form on this web page or call 020 7386 0464.