Why Blacks Have Higher Melanoma Mortality Rates

man in poolWith the incidence of skin cancer on the rise, it has never been more important for the public to practice the prevention and detection steps that are key to avoiding melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Yet in the case of African Americans, detection may be more difficult because studies of African Americans who are diagnosed with melanoma have shown that the condition most often develops on non-sun-exposed areas of the body. This finding, along with the misconception that melanoma is not a significant threat for individuals with darker skin, may contribute to the higher mortality rates for this population.

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At the 2008 American Academy of Dermatology’s Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month news conference, dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology for The College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York, addressed the alarming statistics supporting the fact that prevention and detection messages about melanoma are not being heeded by African Americans.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is one of the few cancers where the cause is known – overexposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun and artificial light, like those in a tanning bed. According to the National Cancer Association, it is estimated that 68,720 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2009 and approximately 8,650 deaths will be attributed to melanoma this year. At this rate, one person dies of melanoma every hour.