Skin cancer death rates highest among black women

    Lighter skinned people develop melanoma more often than people with more pigmentation, but blacks tend to have a worse prognosis.

    A new study of melanoma skin cancer rates found the obvious — people with lighter skin are diagnosed more often. But it also revealed that the death rate among women diagnosed with melanoma is highest among those with darker skin.

    Melanoma accounts for only one percent of skin cancers, but it is the deadliest one. And it is much more deadly among black and Hispanic women than among white women.

    Pantha Rouhani is a dermatologist at the University of Miami, and one of the researchers on the study detailing these statistics.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Rouhani: Initially we think that a lot of the public campaigns have been targeted towards lighter skinned populations and perhaps darker skinned populations have different behaviors when it comes to being sun safe. That perhaps they may not apply sunblock as much or seek shade.

    Rouhani adds that darker-skinned people may not seek medical care for suspicious moles because they don’t believe they are at risk for skin cancer. She says blacks tend to be diagnosed at later stages of melanoma than whites.

    Maurice Thew is a Wilmington dermatologist who was not involved in the research. He says if people don’t see the doctor, they miss out on the best defense against melanoma.

    Thew: When it comes to mortality, everything depends on getting it soon. Melanomas are all curable if you get rid of them before they spread. Once they spread we can’t catch them. Up to now, anyway. It’s an enormous frustration, but it’s a fact.

    The study is a reminder, Rouhani says, that everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer. The research appears in the latest issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal