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Darker skin does not make sun exposure safer says L’Oréal

By Andrew McDougall , 19-Jun-2012
Last updated on 19-Jun-2012 at 12:16 GMT

As summer approaches and sun protection becomes a more prominent issue, beauty behemoth L’Oréal has completed a research project aimed at increasing awareness of the risks of skin cancer and highlighting that people of colour are not immune.

Working on the provision that skin cancer may not be prioritised as a significant health threat to those with darker skin, the French firm has developed a way to measure skin colour, demonstrate the sun exposure risks on all skin types and colours and come to the conclusion that skin cancer does not discriminate; highlighting the need for everyone to remain vigilant.

Education and development

The project has led to L'Oréal wishing to educate people about the risks of sun exposure and has led to the development of a new line of sun protection products. 

"As experts in photoprotection, it is important for us to increase the awareness of the fact that people of color are not immune to skin cancer," said Dr Michele Verschoore, medical director, L'Oreal Research and Innovation.

As part of the project L'Oréal has gathered new relevant data on skin cancer and sun protection in skin of colour which will be sent to all US dermatologists.

This follows years of research into photoprotection as the cosmetics giant seeks to gain a better understanding of the molecular and biological effects of ultraviolet radiation, leading to the development of new sun protection products.

Everyone at risk

The study from L'Oreal Research & Innovation demonstrated that the highest risk of DNA damages was in light to tan skin, which includes most Hispanics and some African-Americans.

As such, L’Oréal claims there is a need to educate people with skin of colour about the risks of sun exposure and proper sunscreen use.

"The lack of skin cancer recognition in patients of colour is a problem and poses a serious health threat if left untreated," said Dr Wendy Roberts, medical director of Desert Dermatology Skin Institute in Rancho Mirage, California.

"Many patients think that non-Caucasian people are immune to skin cancer. That is one reason people of colour are diagnosed at later stage, meaning that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal," said Dr Mona Gohara, assistant clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Yale University School of Medicine.

Some sun exposure facts

A recent epidemiological review published by the American Academy of Dermatology showed that the five-year survival rates for African-Americans (78 per cent) are significantly lower than that of Caucasians (92 per cent).

Ultraviolet radiation still remains one of the most important factors contributing to the risk of developing a skin carcinoma among all skin phenotypes.

According to the study, darker skin does offer some increased protection against ultraviolet radiation, as people with dark skin have a higher melanin and eumelanin content, which in turn reduces the risk of skin cancer induced by ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure.

“However there is considerable skin colour heterogeneity among people of colour. Considering this, inherent sun protection within people of colour varies a lot depending on skin colour types and many people aren't even aware of the risks.”

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