Published on November 21, 2013
Skin cancer rates among Hispanics are skyrocketing in the US. New research shows that in the past two decades alone, melanoma incidence among Hispanics has risen almost 20 percent.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the US, with a 43 percent increase in their numbers from 2000 to 2010. It is estimated that by 2050, the Hispanic population will exceed 100 million, representing more than 24 percent of the total population. Unfortunately, as the number of Hispanics has risen, so have their instances of skin cancer: From 1992 to 2008, their annual melanoma incidence increased by 19 percent. Too little use of sun safety techniques (such as seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen) may have contributed to this rapid rise in melanoma and other skin cancers among Hispanics.
The Risk Is Real
One reason for this underuse of sun protection strategies may be the widespread misconception that people with darker skin are not at risk of skin cancer, according to a recent survey by L’Oreal Paris. Other studies point to the lack of skin cancer education campaigns provided for Hispanics and the need for their dermatologists and general physicians to emphasize skin cancer dangers. The authors of a study published this June in JAMA Dermatology said their findings highlighted “the importance of developing culturally appropriate, tailored interventions to reduce the risk of skin cancer among Hispanics.” These studies all concluded that raising awareness among Hispanics will save lives. Culturally sensitive materials, customized interventions, and stronger public health messages were all suggested as ways to combat the growing skin cancer epidemic among Hispanics.
Making matters worse for Hispanics, those with melanoma have poorer survival than non-Hispanic patients, often due to being diagnosed at a later stage. One study in JAMA Dermatology found that while initial melanoma diagnoses were late-stage in 16 percent of white patients, the number jumped to 26 percent for Hispanics. This trend towards later diagnosis among Hispanics reinforces the need for greater skin cancer education and awareness. These findings underscore the urgency for year-round sun protection, regular skin self-examinations, and annual visits to a dermatologist for everyone, no matter what their ethnicity or skin tone.