OHIO, United States, Thursday August 4, 2016 – American researchers have found that blacks are less likely to survive melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – despite whites having a higher chance of developing it.
And although patients of colour are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma once it has spread and is harder to treat, they also have the worst survival rates for every stage of the disease.
Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but is most commonly found on the back, legs, arms and face, and even underneath a fingernail or toenail.
People of colour are additionally prone to skin cancer in areas that aren’t commonly exposed to the sun, including the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
Though less common than other forms of skin cancer, melanoma often spreads to other organs in the body, making it more deadly.
According to study author Dr Jeremy Bordeaux, from the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland: “Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, regardless of race.
“Patients with skin of colour may believe they aren’t at risk, but that is not the case and when they do get skin cancer, it may be especially deadly.”
For the latest research, scientists studied nearly 100,000 patients who had been diagnosed with melanoma between 1992 and 2009.
While whites had the highest incidence rates, they also had the best survival rates.
Hispanics were second most likely to survive melanoma, followed by Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders.
Dr Bordeaux claims there may be biologic differences in melanoma among patients of colour, resulting in more aggressive disease in these patients, and advocates further research to determine why survival rates differ among different ethnic groups.
In the meantime, he stresses the need for prevention.
“Because skin cancer can affect anyone, everyone should be proactive about skin cancer prevention and detection,” he said.
“Don’t let this potentially deadly disease sneak up on you because you don’t think it can happen to you.”
According to Dr Bordeaux, ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is the most preventable skin cancer risk factor, and everyone, regardless of skin colour, should protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology include using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher; wearing protective clothing, and staying in the shade whenever possible.
Dr Bordeaux noted that skin cancer is most treatable when detected early, so everyone should regularly examine their skin for new or suspicious spots.
He stressed that people should be especially careful to examine hard-to-see areas when monitoring their skin for signs of skin cancer, asking a partner to help if necessary.
“If you notice any spots that are different from the others, or anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist,” he advised.
Other signs to look out for include asymmetrical spots with two very different halves; spots with a mix of colours, and spots larger than one-quarter-inch in diameter.