September 30, 2023

Black men more likely to die from melanoma, study finds

Men with melanoma, especially black men, are more likely to die than women with melanoma, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Comparing data from the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2018, the analysis of more than 200,000 people found that the 5-year survival rate in men with melanoma was highest for white men, about 75%, compared to black men, who scored lowest, with a survival rate of 52%. American Indian/Alaskan Native (69%), Asian (68%), and Hispanic (66%) men fell in between.

The study also found that men of color were more likely to have advanced-stage melanoma, making it more difficult to treat. Even when adjusted for factors such as income level and insurance coverage, the black race alone increased mortality risk compared to the white population, the study found.

Melanoma causes more than 9,000 deaths a year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC data also shows that male mortality from melanoma, of all races, is more than double that of women of all races.

“We know that men are less likely to seek medical care than women, so they may be diagnosed with melanoma at later stages,” dermatologist and study co-author Ashley Wysong, founder and chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said in a press release. “However, even after accounting for later stages at diagnosis, men still have poorer overall survival rates than women with melanoma, so we suspect a number of unmeasured social, genetic, tumour-specific and potentially biological factors are at play, such as hormones and the way the immune system responds to melanoma tumors.”

While it is known that skin cancer is increasing among all Americanswith specific increases in men and people of color, this is the largest study to date looking specifically at the role of race in men with melanoma.

“We hope that our research can lay the groundwork for future studies to determine why there is such a gap in survival rates, and to make progress to narrow these differences in survival rates,” Wysong said.

Steps to protect yourself from skin cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology says to reduce your risk, wear sunscreen and sun protection clothing and watch for changes in your skin.

“If you have a spot on your skin that has looked the same all your life and suddenly the edges look different or the color changes, if the size changes, that’s an important factor,” Dr. Maral Kibarian Skelsey, dermatologist and director of the Washington Dermatologic Surgery Center, previously told CBS news.

It is also recommended that anyone over the age of 18 get an annual skin exam.

“The unique thing about skin cancer – it’s so common, but it’s also so preventable,” Dr. Elizabeth Hale, associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone and senior vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation previously told CBS News.

About 90% of skin cancers are associated with sun exposure, which makes protection important, Hale added.

“We recommend a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher, and it’s important to think about it sunshade every day. It’s not just enough if you go to the beach or the pool, because we know that some damage is cumulative,” she says. “When you’re outside, you’ll want to re-lubricate every two hours — especially if you’re sweating or swimming. Getting people to wear it every day is the real goal.”

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