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Myths About Melanoma Could Lead to Delayed Diagnosis and Treatment

er, when the lesions are thinner and before hair follicles are wiped out. This study clearly illustrates that melanoma can defy the odds in terms of diagnosis and all suspicious lesions should be evaluated without exception.

Myth: People of color dont get skin cancer. Fact: While Caucasians are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than other races, studies show that African-Americans are more likely to develop the condition on non-sun-exposed areas of the body such as the nails, soles of the feet, palms of the hands, mouth, nasal passages and genitals. One study showed that while 90 percent of Caucasian patients develop melanoma on skin that is regularly sun-exposed, only 33 percent of African-American patients developed the condition in these areas.

The common belief that melanoma and other skin cancers dont affect people of color goes hand-in-hand with the myth that skin cancers only develop in sun-exposed areas, explained Dr. Baker. In fact, these hidden melanomas are extremely dangerous, because they dont always follow the ABCD rule for melanoma detection, their symptoms can mimic other medical conditions, and they are not easily detected. People of color, like all patients, need to heed the Academys recommendation to conduct regular skin self-examinations and learn how to spot the warning signs of hidden melanomas.

Experts stress that when diagnosed, melanoma in skin of color patients has often spread to other parts of the body. A study published in the January 2004 issue of JAAD compared the stage of initial melanoma diagnosis of African-American patients versus Caucasian patients and their respective prognoses. Of the 649 patients studied, 32.1 percent of African-American patients were diagnosed with stage III or stage IV melanoma, as compared to only 12.7 percent of Caucasian patients. When melanoma progresses to these advanced stages, it is usually fatal.

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