Skin cancer rates increase for Asian and Hispanic women

Skin cancer rates increase in Hispanic and Asian women

Asian and Hispanic women are at an increased risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer, according to a new study.

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With the Hispanic and Asian populations in the United States on the rise, researchers wanted to analyze skin cancer incidence in the two groups. They found that while most Caucasians who develop skin cancer are older men, the reverse is true for Hispanic and Asian populations, with two-thirds of skin cancers occurring in women.

Asian women were an average age of 70 while Hispanic women were an average age of 62.

Researchers think that a shifting preference toward tanning, as well as the belief that darker skin protects them from the sun's harmful rays, may be contributing to increased rates of skin cancer in Asian and Hispanic women.

"I think the main point we were trying to bring home is that ethnic skin is not really thought of as at risk for skin cancer, but all ethnicities need to be mindful and diligent about getting their skin checked and protecting themselves from the sun," said study author Dr. Arisa Ortiz, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at University of California, San Diego. Ortiz is also director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at UCSD.

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The study was presented March 20 at the American Academy of Dermatology's annual meeting in San Francisco.

The most common types of nonmelanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, which occurs most often on areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun, and squamous cell carcinoma, which result from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning beds and lamps.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 3.5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year, with about 8 in 10 being basal cell cancers. According to current estimates, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. But a 2013 study by the American Association for Cancer Research found that 1 in 4 skin cancer survivors do not use sunscreen when going outside for more than an hour. Two percent of people diagnosed with melanoma also continued to use indoor tanning beds.

“We expected melanoma survivors to be extraordinarily protective since we know sunlight exposure and tanning increases the risk of a second melanoma,” said Dr. Anees Chagpar, a cancer surgeon. “But what was interesting, was that over one quarter said they didn’t use sunscreen. That blew my mind.”

According to a 2013 study in JAMA Dermatology, melanoma rates rose 19 percent among Hispanics over the past two decades. Hispanics with melanoma also had poorer survival rates than non-Hispanic patients, often due to being diagnosed at a later stage.

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