Blacks Less Likely To Have Skin Cancer Than Whites, More Likely To Be Diagnosed in Late, Fatal Stages
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 ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Skin cancer among whites is linked to ultraviolet radiation. Melanoma is 20 times less
common among blacks than whites. When diagnosed with skin cancer, blacks are more likely to be in the advanced, fatal stages of the disease. The five-year survival rate for blacks with skin cancer is 59%, compared with 84% for whites.
Skin cancer among blacks generally is located in places not commonly exposed to the sun, such as the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands or underneath the fingernails or toenails, the Chronicle reports. While some experts maintain that sunlight has little contribution to skin cancer among blacks, skin cancer also sometimes appears in blacks on locations that are exposed to the sun. Experts, therefore, should not "rule out sun exposure as a factor," Robert Kirsner, a University of Miami professor of dermatology, said.
Other likely contributors to skin cancer among blacks are genetics; a compromised immune system; trauma, such as from chronic injury, scars or prior radiation; burns; and skin conditions, such as lupus. Biology and socioeconomic or cultural reasons could contribute to blacks' increased mortality risk from skin cancer, according to the Chronicle.
"The bottom line is, we don't know that much about skin cancer in blacks," Jeffrey Lee, a professor of surgical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said, adding, "We do know that the mortality rates are of concern and that blacks and their physicians should be more vigilant" (Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 7/14).