Blacks Less Likely To Have Skin Cancer Than Whites
What causes skin cancer and why it usually is diagnosed in its fatal stages among blacks "is something of a mystery," the Houston Chronicle reports. According to the Chronicle,the melanin in darkly pigmented skin protects against ultravioletradiation from the sun. Skin cancer among whites is linked toultraviolet radiation. Melanoma is 20 times less common among blacksthan whites. When diagnosed with skin cancer, blacks are more likely tobe in the advanced, fatal stages of the disease. The five-year survivalrate for blacks with skin cancer is 59%, compared with 84% for whites.
Skincancer among blacks generally is located in places not commonly exposedto the sun, such as the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands orunderneath the fingernails or toenails, the Chroniclereports. While some experts maintain that sunlight has littlecontribution to skin cancer among blacks, skin cancer also sometimesappears in blacks on locations that are exposed to the sun. Experts,therefore, should not "rule out sun exposure as a factor," RobertKirsner, a University of Miami professor of dermatology, said.
Otherlikely contributors to skin cancer among blacks are genetics; acompromised immune system; trauma, such as from chronic injury, scarsor prior radiation; burns; and skin conditions, such as lupus. Biologyand socioeconomic or cultural reasons could contribute to blacks'increased mortality risk from skin cancer, according to the Chronicle.
"Thebottom line is, we don't know that much about skin cancer in blacks,"Jeffrey Lee, a professor of surgical oncology at the University ofTexas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,said, adding, "We do know that the mortality rates are of concern andthat blacks and their physicians should be more vigilant" (Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 7/14).
Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserWeekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives,and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.