Senator Boxer: Skin Cancer Is a Concern for Everyone
Friday, June 23, 2006
Recent research reveals that everyone should be aware of the threat posed by skin cancer, its symptoms, and ways to avoid it. The research looked not just at the overall prevalence of skin cancer, but also at who is more likely to be first diagnosed with advanced stage skin cancer.
Traditionally, we have thought of skin cancer as a concern for light-skinned people. However, this new research shows that everyone, regardless of skin color, has reason to learn more about skin cancer and to take proper precautions to prevent it.
The study found that African-Americans are three times more likely than Caucasians to be initially diagnosed with late-stage melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas kill about 8,000 people each year, in part because they metastasize (or spread) to new locations in the body. Finding a melanoma at an advanced stage makes treatment more difficult and increases the likelihood that the cancer will be fatal. Being diagnosed in the later stages decreases the melanoma survival rate from 98 percent to 16 percent.
The researchers at the University of Miami believe that one important factor is a lack of public awareness about the risks of skin cancer among African-Americans and Latinos. While these groups are at a lower overall risk to develop melanoma, they are also less likely to identify the cancer and seek treatment. Doctors are also less likely to recognize melanomas in these groups.
For too long, education programs that focus on skin cancer have targeted mainly people with light skin. While that focus has helped improve survival rates among Caucasians, people of color have not experienced similar improvement. Clearly, education programs must be targeted more broadly so that everyone is exposed to information about avoiding skin cancer.
To learn more about melanoma, how to recognize it, ways to avoid it, and more, I encourage you to visit http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/melanoma
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer