Researchers have found that among patients suffering from melanomas, those from a black or Hispanic background were more likely than whites to have the advanced stage of melanoma at the time of diagnosis.
Experts say that the skin cancer melanoma has become increasingly common in the last decade with incidence rates increasing 2.4 percent annually in the United States.
Because light-skinned individuals are at higher risk for melanoma, much of the prevention and early detection efforts have targeted white populations and this may explain improving survival rates which are up to 92 percent from 68 percent in the 1970 among whites.
However it appears such progress has not been seen among black and Hispanic populations.
A team from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reviewed 1,690 melanoma cases reported in Miami-Dade County between 1997 and 2002.
Of those cases 1,176 occurred in white patients, 485 in Hispanic patients and 29 in non-Hispanic black patients.
Dr. Shasa Hu, who led the study says they found that the Hispanic and black patients were both more likely to have advanced-stage melanomas than white patients.
It seems that of the melanoma patients reviewed 16 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of blacks had cancer that had already spread to other organs and tissues at the time it was diagnosed, compared with 9 percent of whites.
Black patients had the highest rate, 52 percent, of regional- or distant-stage melanoma, the two most severe stages that indicate the cancer has spread to other lymph nodes or organs; compared to 26 percent for Hispanics and 16 percent for whites.
White patients were more likely to be diagnosed with earlier stages of melanoma, including melanoma in situ, or cases in which the cancer cells are found only in the outer layer of skin, and local melanoma, in which cancer has spread to the lower layers of skin but not to the surrounding lymph nodes.
Twenty-seven percent of white patients, 10 percent of black patients and 22 percent of Hispanic patients were diagnosed with melanoma in situ; 57 percent of white, 38 percent of black and 52 percent of Hispanic cases were diagnosed at the local stage.
The authors say the later diagnosis may contribute to lower survival rates among blacks and Hispanics and suggest that education, skin cancer screening and examinations need to be improved in these populations in order to improve melanoma survival rates in minority populations.
The report is published in the June issue of Archives of Dermatology.