We Are Sunshine

Are Doctors Killing Black Americans?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

2010-06-25 killing black americans copyA new American Medical Association policy urging black-skinned Americans to use chemical sunscreen just as often as white Americans may actually contribute to epidemic levels of severe vitamin D deficiency in darker-skinned Americans and is an example of how many in the medical industry continue to misbrand chemical sunscreen products.

In introducing its new “Skin Cancer Prevention in Communities of Color” policy at its annual meeting in Chicago, AMA reported that African Americans and Hispanics “mistakenly believe that their chance for developing skin cancer is lower compared to Caucasians.”

AMA is wrong. In fact:

  • Reported melanoma incidence is 15-20 times greater in white Americans than in black Americans, according to National Cancer Institute data.
  • Melanoma mortality among black Americans is lower than 0.5 per 100,000, according to the National Cancer Institute – about five-to-nine times lower than the averages for white Americans.
  • Melanoma in black Americans appears frequently on the bottom of the victim’s feet — a location that cannot be attributed to sun exposure.
  • At the same time severe vitamin D deficiency among black Americans — most plausibly caused by sun avoidance and over-use of chemical sunscreen in times of the year when sunburn isn’t possible — has increased more than 300 percent in the past generation, according to the government’s own data. Today 29 percent of black Americans suffer from severe vitamin D deficiency — levels low enough to trigger a resurgence in rickets.

“AMA’s position appears to be motivated by increasing chemical sunscreen sales, not by improving the health of dark-skinned Americans,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “While it would be responsible for doctors to report that dark-skinned Americans appear to find and diagnose skin cancers at later stages on average, it is totally inaccurate to say that skin cancer rates are the same.”

Many groups, including the AMA, encourage chemical sunscreen usage to prevent melanoma despite the fact that the government does not permit chemical sunscreen manufacturers to claim that sunscreen prevents melanoma. More studies show that people who use chemical sunscreen have higher rates of melanoma compared to those who don’t use the product — a result that has yet to be explained with data.

Smart Tan believes that people of all skin types should be taught sunburn prevention, but not over-use of chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreen should only be used on occasions when sunburn is possible.

To read the Medical News Today coverage of this story click here.

To read the AMA’s press statement click here.