Rising melanoma rates among minorities signals need for targeted outreach

November 1, 2010

Rising melanoma rates among patients of color in portions of the country indicate that dermatologists must tailor specific sun-safety messages for these populations, experts say.

Key Points

National report - Rising melanoma rates among patients of color in portions of the country indicate that dermatologists must tailor specific sun-safety messages for these populations, experts say.

A recent study of racial and ethnic trends among Florida subjects showed that melanoma incidence was 20 percent higher among Hispanic men and 60 percent higher among non-Hispanic black women - although 30 percent lower among Hispanic women - compared with national estimates (Rouhani P, Pinheiro PS, Sherman R, et al. Arch Dermatol. 2010;146(7):741-746).

Although the melanoma rate in California's Hispanic population remains low versus that of non-Hispanic whites (NHWs), Dr. Cockburn says, the increase "carries many hallmarks of a really big problem down the track."

Specifically, the incidence of tumors thicker than 1.5 mm at presentation climbed 11.6 percent yearly among Hispanic men and 8.9 percent yearly among Hispanic women, he says.

Tracking microtrends

"With regard to Florida, we thought it was very interesting to study Hispanics because there's a large Hispanic population in Florida" that's primarily of Cuban and South American origin, he says. "The high level of UV exposure in Florida also made the comparison intriguing."

Dr. Kirsner says the study confirms that although blacks and Hispanics have a lower risk of skin cancer than NHWs, "They're not immune. The more attention that's brought to that, the better."

In this regard, he applauds efforts by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to promote melanoma awareness among nonwhites by targeting radio stations popular among Hispanic and black listeners.

"Hopefully, someone out there got the message and went to the doctor a little earlier than they normally would have," she says.

In June, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution to "support and encourage efforts to increase awareness of skin cancer risks, skin cancer screening and sun-protective behaviors in communities of color." However, an AMA spokesman says that to date, no specific AMA campaigns have begun.