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Melanoma Less Common in Blacks But Deadlier

Skin cancer diagnosis occurs later in nonwhites, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors are diagnosing more white people with the deadly skin cancer known as melanoma, and while Hispanics and blacks are much less likely to be diagnosed with the malignancy, they often have advanced forms of the cancer when it is found, new research suggests.

"Research and public education efforts have focused on melanoma prevention in white populations because of their higher risk of developing melanoma," the study authors wrote in the December issue of the Archives of Dermatology. "Improved secondary prevention measures with earlier detection of thin [early-stage] melanoma likely account for the improved survival among whites from 68 percent in the early 1970s to 92 percent in recent years. Such advances, however, have not occurred in other racial and ethnic groups in the United States."

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine looked at statistics regarding 41,072 cases of melanoma between 1990 and 2004 from the Florida Cancer Data System. Almost all -- 39,670 -- were in non-Hispanic whites, with 1,148 in white Hispanics and 254 in blacks.

The Hispanic and black patients, however, had more advanced cases of melanoma, the study authors found. Eighteen percent of Hispanics and 26 percent of blacks had the most advanced kinds of cases, compared to 12 percent among non-Hispanic whites.

"Melanoma among darker-skinned populations has received little attention, partly reflecting their overall lower risk compared with white non-Hispanics," the authors noted. "The lowest survival rates and delayed melanoma diagnosis is often seen in blacks. With the readily expanding population and increasing melanoma rate of 2.9 percent per year, melanoma among Hispanics also becomes an increasingly important public health issue."

"This study adds to a growing body of literature that identifies a pervasive and persistent disparity in the stage of melanoma diagnosis between Hispanic and black patients versus white patients," wrote the authors of a commentary accompanying the study.

More information

Learn more about melanoma from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 21, 2009

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