Dermatologists: Skin Cancer Is "Equal-Opportunity Health Threat"

A new study has suggested that Hispanics, African-Americans and young people, especially young women under 40, are at a higher risk for different types of skin cancers.

Hispanics, African-Americans and young people, especially young women under 40, are at a higher risk for different types of skin cancers, a new study has found.

At the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists Jason K. Rivers, MD, FRCPC, FAAD and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, presented the results of his research, which uncovered a “higher than expected incidence of basal cell carcinoma in a small population of women under age 40.”

Robert S. Kirsner, MD, PhD, FAAD, vice chairman and Stiefel professor in the department of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who also presented at the meeting, discussed his finding that the rate of melanoma in Hispanics and African-Americans is “higher than the national average” in Florida.

Rivers performed an analysis of 885 patients from his practice who were diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers between 1993 and 2005. He found that, in all of the 885 patient charts that were examined, 1,177 non-melanoma skin cancers were found. Though basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas diagnoses were seen most often in patients age 60 and above, Rivers found that there was a slight increase in the rate of basal cell carcinomas in patients between 20 and 39 years of age. In addition, women from all age groups “developed an increasing number of basal cell carcinomas,” though the rate for men stayed about the same.

Rivers speculates that, because Vancouver is a low-sunlight area, the women who were diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma were using tanning beds and being exposed to an increased amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

“I think these findings of an increased incidence of basal cell carcinomas in younger people is representative of what you would find across North America if a large-scale study was conducted,” said Rivers. “We probably would notice even higher rates in areas where year-round sun exposure is more prevalent, such as the southern parts of the United States.”

In Kirsner’s research, data from the Florida Cancer Data System (FCDS) and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program was examined, which “complies cancer statistics from geographic areas across the country—representing 26 percent of the U.S. population.”

The rate of melanoma in Hispanics patients who lived in Florida was 20 percent higher than the rates of “their counterparts in the SEER program.” Black female residents from Florida were 60 percent more likely to have melanoma than the reported numbers of black females in the SEER program.

“We hope that earlier diagnosis of melanoma in black and Hispanic patients at a more favorable or treatable stage will ultimately improve melanoma survival rates in minority populations,” said Kirsner. “Clearly, it is important for people of all races and ethnicities to protect their skin from ultraviolet light and to make an appointment to see a dermatologist at the first sign of a suspicious mole.”