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Skin Cancer Rates Among Hispanics Soar

March 27, 2014


Recently released statistics back up something that Dr. Michael Steppie, MD and others at Associates in Dermatology have long observed in the practice’s 12 locations in Central Florida, which an ever growing number of US Hispanics call home – that skin cancer rates among this group are soaring.

In the past two decades alone, melanoma incidence among Hispanics has risen nearly 20 percent – a disconcerting statistic particularly considering that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, expected to kill more than 9,700 Americans in 2014 alone. Research shows that an erroneous perception that those with darker skin are at a lesser risk than others for skin cancer may be to blame. That mistaken perception has led many Hispanics to believe they simply don’t need to employ sun safety techniques like using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, limiting their time in the direct sunlight and seeking shade. All of these have contributed to the rapid rise in the rates of melanoma and other skin cancers among Hispanic Americans.

Study results also suggest an unsettling lack of skin cancer education campaigns and materials tailored to Hispanics, who comprise the nation’s fastest growing population. The consequences can be deadly. In fact, statistics show that Hispanics with melanoma have significantly poorer survival rates than non-Hispanic patients, primarily because they tend to be diagnosed with the condition at a later stage.

One study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Dermatology, researchers found that initial melanoma diagnoses were late-stage in a full 26 percent of Hispanic patients, compared to just 16 percent of white patients.

Consider these troubling findings: 

  • Nearly 40% of all Hispanics sunbathe regularly and 12 percent of Hispanics age 18 to 29 underwent indoor tanning in the past year;
  • More than 43% of Hispanics report they rarely or never use sunscreen and of those who do use sunscreen, more than 22% don’t know its SPF;
  • One in three Hispanics have experienced sunburn in the past year;
  • Only a fourth of Hispanics say they wear protective clothing in the sun;
  • Just 15 percent of Hispanic women regularly do self-skin checks and a full 89 percent admit they’ve never discussed melanoma with a doctor.

These disturbing statistics clearly underscore the urgency for year-round sun protection, regular skin self-examinations and annual visits to a dermatologist.  This advice goes for everyone, no matter your ethnicity or skin tone. No one is immune to the ill effects of too much sun exposure, including melanoma skin cancer. It’s also important to note that while the risk of melanoma increases with age – 61 being the average age at the time of diagnosis – melanoma also is one of the most common skin cancers in adults younger than 30.

Here at Associates in Dermatology, we care about our Hispanic friends, neighbors and patients. We urge you to learn more about skin cancer risks and preventative measures, and to share that information (including this article) with your loved ones.

A great way to start is to schedule a skin health screening at one of our 12 convenient Central Florida locations. Call 800-827-SKIN (7546) or use our convenient online scheduling form.

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