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Melanoma Can Strike Black Americans, Often With Deadlier Results
  • Posted May 14, 2024

Melanoma Can Strike Black Americans, Often With Deadlier Results

Melanoma, while rare among Black Americans, is often detected later with devastating consequences, a new study finds.

Black people are frequently diagnosed with melanoma at later stages, increasing their risk of death compared to fairer-skinned patients, researchers found.

Advanced stage 3 melanoma was detected in 19% of Black people with the cancer, versus 6% of white patients, results showed.

The study revealed “striking differences in how patients presented with the disease," said senior researcher Dr. Tina Hieken, a surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For example, Black patients more often had extremity melanoma, which forms on the arms, legs, hands and feet, results show.

Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that accounts for 75% of all skin cancer-related deaths, researchers said.

For this study, researchers analyzed data on more than 492,000 patients with melanoma.

Melanoma is diagnosed less frequently in people with darker complexions. Of the people in this study, only 0.3% were Black.

The study found that Black men tended to be older at diagnosis and more likely to have cancer that had spread elsewhere in their bodies, compared to Black women.

As a result, Black men with stage 3 melanoma had just a 42% chance of surviving for five years, compared to 71% for Black women.

The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Surgical Oncology.

One reason why Black women fare better could be that they have a better immune response to cutting-edge drugs, researchers said.

"Several immune signals suggest that women may respond better to some immunotherapies than males," Hieken said in a Mayo Clinic news release.

Heiken said the study’s results are a wake-up call that melanoma poses a risk for everyone, regardless of their sex or skin tone.

She recommends that doctors carefully examine areas like palms, soles and under fingernails, where melanoma might be more challenging to spot on darker skin.

"We can incorporate screening for skin lesions or lesions under the nails into the visit for patients as part of their regular checkups," Hieken said. "What we want to do is elevate care for our patients."

For more information

The American Cancer Society has more about melanoma.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, May 10, 2024

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