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SKIN CANCER IN HISPANICS


It is well known that the rates of skin cancer in the United States have increased dramatically in recent decades, but a little known fact is that the rate of melanoma increase in Hispanics has risen 20% in the past two decades.

It is not entirely clear what is causing this increase, but it may be due to the misconception that people with darker skin are not at risk of developing skin cancer. Some studies suggest that there is also a lack of skin cancer education campaigns for Hispanics, and physicians may also be at fault for not emphasizing the danger to their Hispanic patients.

The following statistics may help to explain why we are seeing such an increase in skin cancer in our Hispanic patients:

  • Published studies show that more than 43% of Hispanics "never" or "rarely" use sunscreen.
  • Only 15% of Hispanic women regularly do self-skin checks.
  • About 12% of 18-29 year old Hispanics report indoor tanning in the past year.
  • Only one in four Hispanics say they wear protective clothing in the sun.
  • Nearly 40% of Hispanics sunbathe.
  • 1/4 of Hispanics who report using sunscreen do not know what its SPF is.
  • 1 out of every 3 Hispanics has sunburned in the past year.
  • Only 1 out of 10 Hispanic women have had a conversation with their doctor about melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The bottom line is that our Hispanic population needs to be more aware of the risk of skin cancer, and there needs to be more skin cancer education campaigns for the Hispanic community. One frightening statistic is that Hispanics with melanoma have poorer survival than non-Hispanic patients, quite likely due to being diagnosed at a later stage. A recent study showed that while melanoma diagnoses were late stage in 16% of white patients, the number jumped to 26% for Hispanics.

These findings underscore the urgency for year around sun protection, regular skin self-examinations, and annual visits to a dermatologist for everyone, no matter what their ethnicity or skin tone.
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