Minorities risks for Skin Cancer

June 21, 2013 3:13:12 PM PDT
It's true the darker your skin, the less likely you are to get skin cancer. But it's possible.

Dr. Hooman Khorasani is Chief of Dermatology Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. He's seen a rise in sun-related skin cancers especially among the Hispanic population

"I think a lot of my Hispanic patients feel because they have a little darker skin they shouldn't use sunscreen," he said.

Eti Vakili is Iranian and also has a darker skin tone. She's had cancer on her scalp and ear which Dr. Khorasani says may have related to sun exposure.

"I didn't know that my skin is not white, white, white, so I was surprised.

But many skin cancers have nothing to do with the sun, but are instead caused by genetic changes or even HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus.

"By far the most common skin cancer in African Americans is HPV-induced Squamous Cell Carcinoma," adds Dr. Khorasani.

And that's why it's important to look for skin cancer even in places where the sun never shines.

Like the sole of the foot, the tip of the toe or even under the nail, you can see a dark line is melanoma.

Overall melanoma is deadlier in people of color. The 5 year survival rate for African Americans is 77% compared to 91% for Caucasians. That's thought to be because it's detected later.

"A lot of people think they have a bruise that's not going away or a splinter," adds Dr. Khorasani.

So the message is if you see something unusual, have it checked out regardless of the color of your skin.

And regardless of how much time you've spent in the sun, often access to care is a barrier-especially for minorities of color.

At Mount Sinai, they offer free surgery for skin cancer every Thursday for anyone without insurance.

LINK: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/skin-cancer-and-skin-of-color

LINK: http://drkhorasani.com/PRO-BONO-CLINIC/