Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australia. Unlike other sunny countries, the inhabitants of Australia are from a European background, with fairer skin, which is at a higher risk of skin cancer than darker skins. Did you know that there is a way to tell what skin colour type you are, identifying your cancer risk, called the Fitzpatrick Skin Type?
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a type of cancer that affects the skin cells of the body. There are three types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma [SCC] affecting the squamous (layered cells) in the skin, basal cell carcinoma [BCC] affecting the basal layer of the skin, and melanoma affecting the melanocytes. Skin cancer is colloquially referred to as sun cancer because the risk for skin cancer greatly increases with sunlight exposure.
The Fitzpatrick Scale grades a person’s skin based on skin colour, eye colour and sun sensitivity. The score allows for people to have unique skin colourings but still may have a high risk for skin cancer, such as fair skin, red hair, freckles and but with dark brown eyes (which scores 6- a Fitzpatrick 1). Take the test in our further reading section to find out what skin type you are.
A Fitzpatrick type I is the fairest of them all. Generally, people with this type have; fair, pink, sensitive skin; red or light blonde hair; light eyes; freckle easily; and burn easily. This group is most at risk at developing skin cancer.
Fitzpatrick II is still fair, but are far more porcelain or creamy in tone than type I. They are often not freckled, but still have light skin, light hair and light eyes. This skin type is also at a high risk for skin cancer.
The goal of sun smart skin care for Fitzpatrick Type I and II’s is to; minimise future sun damage by staying out of the sun during danger times and covering up; minimise the damage of any recent sun exposure; reverse the signs of premature aging such as wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation; monthly self skin checks; and attend regular skin checks with a dermatologist.
Why not try Dermalogica’s Ultracalming Super Sensitive Shield, a broad spectrum physical sunscreen with an SPF of 30, perfect for more sensitive skin types.
Fitzpatrick type III is still at a higher risk of skin cancer. Could this be because these darker skinned person’s perceive they are more immune to sun damage? Fitzpatrick type III’s have a light olive complexion, tan moderately, with medium toned hair and light brown eyes.
Fitzpatrick type IV skin tan very well, and burn only minimally, with brown skin and darker hair. They are not at such a high risk of skin cancer as types I-III, but they should still employ sun smart practices to reduce the risk of cancer, hyper-pigmentation and premature skin aging.
The goal of skincare for Fitzpatrick III’s and IV’s is to prevent future sun damage, cover up and wear SPF in the sun, annual skin checks, and to treat any signs of aging such as pigmentation and wrinkles. Though these skin types may tan quite well, tanning in the sun or on solar beds is never safe and dramatically increases your risk of skin cancer.
Why not try Solar Defence Booster SPF 50+, which you can mix into your moisturiser to give it UVA and UVB fighting power.
Fitzpatrick skin types V and VI are the darkest of all skin colours. Fitzpatrick type V have dark brown skin with dark hair and eyes, and Fitzpatrick VI skin is darker, and may even appear almost black. Though these skin types have the most melanin, every skin type has a risk of developing skin cancer. Additionally, without adequate sun protection, Fitzpatrick types V and VI are at a risk of developing hypo-pigmentation from sun damage.
The goal of sun smart practices for Fitzpatrick types V and VI are to prevent sun damage and pigmentation, annual skin checks, as well as treating any current hypo-pigmentation.
Why not try Dermalogica’s Sheer Tint in Dark (also available in Light and Medium), a tinted moisturiser with SPF 20 worn alone or under make up.
Make an appointment
If you have questions or require information about skin cancer contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a dermatologist.