Skin Cancer Doesn't Discriminate

August 11, 2016
Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

Melanoma has long been associated with fair skin and a history of sunburns, however, one study shows that overall survival of melanoma in non-white patients is significantly lower than that of white patients.

Melanoma has long been associated with fair skin and a history of sunburns. Consequently, skin cancer screening and awareness programs often have focused on the white population. A group of researchers from East Lansing, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to evaluate survival across racial groups. They defined racial groups as white, black, Hispanic, and Asian American/Native American/Pacific Islander, and analyzed the records of 96,953 people diagnosed with cutaneous melanoma as their primary cancer during the years 1992 to 2009.

White patients had the longest survival time, followed by Hispanic, Asian American/Native American/Pacific Islander, and black people. Survival was stratified by race and stage, and for stages I and III, blacks had a significantly lower survival. The proportion of later-stage cutaneous melanoma (stages II-IV) was greater in blacks compared with whites.

The researchers concluded that although there is a higher incidence of cutaneous melanoma in whites, overall survival for cutaneous melanoma in non-whites was significantly lower. These findings suggest that more emphasis is needed for melanoma screening and awareness in non-white populations in order to improve survival outcomes. Click here for more on this study.