Melanoma Not Just a Light-Skinned Cancer

Melanoma diagnosed in later stages in blacks and Hispanics

(RxWiki News) Melanoma — the most dangerous type of skin cancer — is one of the fastest growing forms of cancer in the US. And while it’s most common in white people, melanoma is also seen in Hispanics and blacks.

Between 1997 and 2007, rates of melanoma in Connecticut did not increase as rapidly in black and Hispanic residents as in white individuals, according to a recent study.

However, melanoma that is being diagnosed in people with darker skin, the study found, tended to be more advanced than it was in individuals with lighter skin.

The researchers suggested that this study points out a need to educate people of all races to look for skin changes.

"Regularly check your skin for changes in moles."

MariMeg Clairwood, MD, in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in New Haven, led this study.

The number of people diagnosed with melanoma has doubled over the last 25 years, the authors noted in the background section of the article. Recent research also shows more cases of melanoma are being seen in Hispanics in California and Florida.

Given these findings, the goal of this study was to analyze the melanoma incidence in minority groups in the northeast US.

The research team looked at 1992-2007 Surveillance Epidemiology and Evidence Research (SEER) melanoma incidence data for Connecticut. The rates were calculated by race and Hispanic ethnicity.

Age at diagnosis, gender, marital status, where the melanoma developed and specific tumor characetrisitcs were analyzed, along with the stage (extent of cancer and its location) at diagnosis.

While the annual incidence of melanoma increased 4.1 percent in non-Hispanic whites in Connecticut, the incidence among Hispanics and blacks remained steady over the 15-year study period.

However, the stage of disease at diagnosis was very different among the groups.

Cancer had spread regionally (to nearby organs) in 10.6 percent of blacks and 12.2 percent of Hispanics, compared to 6.5 percent of white patients. Distant spread was present in 8.5 percent of blacks, 4.9 percent of Hispanics and 2.2 percent of white individuals.

“A significantly higher proportion of advanced melanomas were diagnosed in non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics than in non-Hispanic whites,” the authors wrote. "There is a growing need to educate patients and healthcare providers of the necessity for skin cancer surveillance regardless of the race of the patient.”

This study was published August 22 in the International Journal of Dermatology.

No funding information was provided, and no conflicts of interest were declared.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2013