A Summertime Melanoma Scold

June 21, 2006

This AP article scared the bejesus out of me, especially since I, too, am Hispanic, grew up in Miami and am awful about putting on sunscreen.

While melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is more common among whites than minorities, it more likely to kill African-Americans and Latinos because it is likely to grow undetected, according to a University of Miami study released on Monday.

African-Americans are more than three times as likely as whites to be diagnosed with the disease in its latest and deadliest stage. Latinos are nearly twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed with late-term melanoma.

One author of the study, Dr. Robert Kirsner, a University of Miami dermatologist, said researchers did not focus on possible causes for the disparity, but he noted that blacks and Hispanics tend to have less access to medical care.

Also, because the disease is more likely to occur in light-skinned people, many prevention and detection efforts are aimed at them, he said.

“Patients may be coming to (doctors) with some concerns, but because of the patient’s ethnic or racial makeup, the doctor may put melanoma lower on the list of potential diagnosis and not evaluate it in the same way,” Kirsner said.

A word of caution for everyone: Skin cancer makes up half of all cancer cases, according to AP. It is twice as common in men than in women and it’s ramping up among children and adolescents. Stock up on the Copper Tone and lather up!