Dermatologists should be versed and informed about the specific attitudes and lifestyle habits that could be fueling rising skin cancer risk in the Hispanic population, according to dermatologist Maritza I. Perez, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
Dr. Perez presented on Hispanics and skin cancer risk at the March 2017 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Many Latinos don’t believe they’re at risk for skin cancer because their skin is darker than that of Caucasians’ and they’re less likely to burn. And that thinking has prevailed for generations, according to Dr. Perez.
There are myths among many in the community, she says. Some Latinos get a “base tan” at an indoor tanning booth prior to tanning under the sun, thinking the base tan will protect them.
Latinos are more likely than Caucasians to be diagnosed with skin cancer in its advanced stages, Dr. Perez says.
Dermatologists should help to spread the word to the Hispanic population about the importance of self-exams, as well as help educate them about the signs of skin cancer.
“As for me, I will try to get myself involved with the Hispanic television media to get the message to the audience that needs to hear it in their own language,” she says.
Skin of color patients, she says, are prone to getting skin cancer in unusual areas and should be extra vigilant about checking the palms of hands, soles of feet, under the nails and inside the mouth. The message is the same for dermatologists.
“[It’s important to] do complete skin exams including hands, feet and mouth, in all patients no matter skin color or ethnicity,” Dr. Perez says.
When melanoma is detected while still in early stages, melanoma in situ and T1A stage, the rate of survival is 98 percent. Survival drops to 91 percent by the time a patient progresses to T1B, she says.
The AAD aims to raise skin cancer awareness among the underserved Latino population through its Latino Outreach Program, which offers free skin cancer screenings and educates low-income Latino outdoor workers about skin cancer prevention and detection.