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Blacks Not Immune to Melanoma Risk
Researchers say no ethnic group is immune to the risks of skin cancer, and some may actually face greater risks due to lax screening practices or mistaken beliefs.
For example, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and new research shows that blacks diagnosed with the disease are much more likely to die from it than whites.
"There is a universal belief that African Americans do not develop melanoma," says Susan Taylor, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University. "Physicians and patients are not suspicious of melanoma, and if you're not suspicious of melanoma, you don't look for it."
Taylor says that blacks are more likely to have their melanoma diagnosed at a more advanced stage than others groups, which might explain why it tends to be more deadly. A recent study showed more than 32% of blacks with melanoma were diagnosed with stage III or stage IV melanoma compared with only about 13% of whites.
Melanoma may also be harder to spot in blacks because it usually develops in different locations than those commonly examined in melanoma skin cancer screenings.
The same study showed that 90% of whites developed melanoma on skin that is regularly exposed to the sun, but only 33% of blacks developed the cancer in these areas. Instead, blacks most often developed melanoma on the feet, toenails, and mucous membranes of the mouth, nasal passages, or genitals.