Hispanic woman

Having darker skin does not exclude you from getting skin cancer. Photo: Getty Images

If you have a darker complexion, you actually have a greater risk of dying from skin cancer than your light-skinned counterparts.

That's the shocking news from a recent study of 41,072 melanoma patients in Florida that found advanced cases in 12% of Caucasians, 18% of Hispanics, and 26% of African Americans.

The culprit? Minorities are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for skin cancer in its early detection stages.

"There is a fairly common misconception among African Americans and Hispanics that we do not get skin cancer. Nothing could be further from the truth," says Dr. Marcy Street, the first African-American female MOHS surgeon in the United States.

"Because light-skinned individuals are mentioned constantly, minority groups often surmise that the information somehow doesn't apply to us since we don't commonly burn or have the warning signs of having had too much sun -- redness, tingling, sun burning, peeling," adds Dr. Street.

Individuals with deeper skin tones should look for changing moles, a skin growth that doesn't heal, and a dry, patchy rash that refuses to heal with lotion.

"Melanoma may occur commonly on the hands, feet, mucosal surfaces and in other hidden places such as the eyes. These are all areas of the body that need to be checked regularly," advises Dr. Street.

Naturally bronzed beauties should never assume that skin color means you can skimp on the sunscreen. Look for light spray-on formulas with an SPF of at least 30 that blend in more seamlessly than chunkier white creams that may leave skin ashy or gray.

And if you believe your skin cancer knowledge is not up to par, learn how to detect a cancerous mole.