UV Exposure and The Risk of Melanoma in Skin of Color

Most people are aware that excessive exposure to the sun over the course of one’s lifetime is linked to an increased risk for some type of skin cancer. However, there is recent research that suggests that at least for individuals with darker skin, exposure to UV rays doesn’t seem to increase their chances of ever contracting melanoma. This is certainly news for some individuals!

The Research

A recent study mentioned on the JAMA Network website, reviewed the cases of more than 7,700 darker-skinned individuals who had some form of melanoma. Thirteen studies were conducted using these same individuals, and overwhelmingly (in eleven of the studies) there was no causal relationship between contracting melanoma and a person’s exposure to UV rays. Only 2 of the studies showed a statistically significant positive (although small) correlation between UV rays and contracting melanoma for Black and Hispanic males.

The overall consensus of the research seemed to reveal that in the case of darker-skinned individuals, current recommendations for protecting one’s skin from UV rays was not supported by research. The researchers cautioned however, that the evidence in the studies was of moderate to low quality, thus they recommended that further research be conducted in order to clearly demonstrate that people in the darker-skinned population were not at greater risk for contracting melanoma if they did not use sun protection.

The researchers also made a point that, evidence still does suggest that UV rays are a risk factor in contracting melanoma for individuals within the fairer-skinned population.

Unique Circumstances

While the studies did not include individuals who were either transplant recipients or those who were immunosuppressed, the studies also excluded those who had a potentially significantly elevated risk for melanoma. The latter point may lead some people, even individuals with darker-skin, to conclude they still may be at greater risk for contracting melanoma because they have a familial relationship with a relative who did have melanoma at some point in their life.


While there is at least some evidence that individuals with darker skin may have less risk of ever contracting melanoma because of exposure to UV rays, darker-skinned individuals who are related to someone who did have melanoma, may still have concerns. If you have darker skin and are related to someone who has contracted skin cancer, we understand your concerns. Please contact us today for an appointment to discuss what you can do to minimize your risk of contracting skin cancer in the future.

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