Melanoma rates drop for most-educated whites

January 25, 2012

While the overall death rate from melanoma has been declining among whites in recent years, the decline is only significant among the most highly educated sector of that population.

Atlanta - While the overall death rate from melanoma has been declining among whites in recent years, the decline is only significant among the most highly educated sector of that population.

According to research led by Vilma E. Cokkinides, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, melanoma mortality decreased by 8 percent for men and 9 percent for women ages 25 to 64 in the two periods from 1993-1997 and 2003-2007.

Over that same span, however, there was an increase in mortality, although statistically insignificant, among men and women with less than a high school education.

MedPage Today reports that disparities in mortality rates according to educational achievement have been observed with lung, breast and colon cancers, but that such a disparity involving melanoma had not been examined previously.

A number of factors may contribute to higher mortality among the less educated, with education often being considered to reflect socioeconomic status (SES).

“Lower SES is ... associated with suboptimal knowledge and awareness of melanoma, inadequate health insurance, fewer primary providers and lower rates of skin self-examination or physician screening,” the authors wrote.

Further contributions may be differences in sun exposure because of occupation and geography, the authors wrote. They noted the study also is somewhat limited by a lack of information on other relevant factors, such as stage of disease at diagnosis.

In the study abstract, the authors concluded, “The widening disparities in melanoma mortality rates by education call for early detection strategies to effectively target high-risk, less-educated, non-Hispanic white individuals.”

The study appears online in Archives of Dermatology.

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