Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, at later stages of the disease and have lower survival rates than white men.
The new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology on Tuesday analyzed 205,125 cases of male patients, 98% of whom were white, with cutaneous invasive melanoma.
Cutaneous melanoma is the most common and dangerous type of skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and indoor tanning. The disease claims nearly 8,000 lives in the United States annually but has a 98% five-year survival rate if diagnosed early.
Melanoma is about 20 times more common in white people than Black; however, the study found a 26% higher risk of death from the disease for Black males than their White counterparts.
A possible explanation for such disparity is that nearly half (48.6%) of Black men are diagnosed with melanoma at late stages, compared to 21.1% of white men and 37.6% of Asian men.
The study observed significant differences in the location of melanomas. Over half (50.7%) of Black men develop skin cancer on their lower extremities, compared to fewer than 10% of white men who primarily have melanomas on the trunk, head, and neck.
Although the relationship between skin cancer and UV light is well established, Black men often develop melanomas on body parts that are not typically exposed to the sun, such as toes, nail beds, or palms.
The five-year survival rate for cutaneous melanoma among White men is 75%, compared to only 51.7% for Black men and between 66% to 69% for American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Hispanic men. The authors hypothesize that this may be because Black men are less likely to have private health insurance.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), people of color should be aware of these melanoma signs:
- Dark spot, growth, or darker patch of skin that is growing, bleeding, or changing in any way.
- Sore that won’t heal — or heals and returns.
- Sore that has a hard time healing, especially if the sore appears in a scar or on skin that was injured in the past.
- Patch of skin that feels rough and dry.
- Dark line underneath or around a fingernail or toenail.
The AADA recommends checking areas that get little sun, such as the bottoms of the feet, toenails, lower legs, groin, and buttocks.
Men are more likely to develop and die of melanoma than women. The new study indicates that Black men are especially vulnerable, as only half of them will live for more than five years after receiving the diagnosis.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. Racial and ethnic differences in males with melanoma: A retrospective cohort study of 205,125 cases from the National Cancer Database.
- Melanoma Research Alliance. Cutaneous Melanoma.
- American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Melanoma Skin Cancer.