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7.20.2010

Minorities in Florida have Different Melanoma Rates Compared to National Trends

Miller School researchers have found that melanoma rates among minorities in Florida differ from national trends. Scientists discovered higher incidence rates among Hispanic men and non-Hispanic black women, but lower rates among Hispanic women. The results are published in the July issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the Journal of the American Medical Association/Archives journals.

Panta Rouhani, M.D., Ph.D., from the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, led a team of seven colleagues at the Miller School who compared melanoma incidence in the Florida Cancer Data System to national estimates from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) databases between 1992 and 2004.

Over the past several decades, melanoma has increased more rapidly than any other cancer. An estimated one in 58 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime, with lighter-skinned populations more likely to develop the potentially deadly form of skin cancer. However, melanoma is more likely to be diagnosed at more advanced stages among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black individuals than among non-Hispanic white men and women, resulting in higher mortality rates.

Melanoma incidence also varies by region, most likely because of differences in exposure to UV radiation. “It’s critical that we analyze state and national melanoma trends,” says Rouhani, “to identify high-risk regions of the country.”

After evaluating nearly 110,000 patients with melanoma, including more than 36,000 from Florida, the researchers found that the incidence of melanoma among male Hispanics was 20 percent higher in Florida than in the SEER registries, and non-Hispanic black females in Florida had a 60 percent higher incidence of the disease than the same population in the SEER registries. However, female Hispanic patients living in Florida were 30 percent less likely to develop melanoma than those in the SEER database.

Robert Kirsner, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair, professor and Stiefel Laboratories Chair of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery and member of the Melanoma Site Disease Group at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, was the senior author on the paper. He says the data do not explain the cause of melanoma among non-whites, but he believes the trends in Florida are “partially attributable to UV radiation exposure. The high UV index of Florida may potentially explain the higher incidence pattern in non-white Floridians compared with their non-white counterparts in the national group.”

The researchers say migration differences between ethnic groups may contribute to differences between ethnic groups within Florida. Non-Hispanic white individuals may have moved to Florida from areas with lower UV radiation indexes, while those arriving from Latin American countries were likely exposed to more UV radiation at younger ages.

Rouhani and Kirsner say this study points to the importance of determining melanoma trends by region or state in order to uncover disparities in prevention and detection. “We hope that the analysis of ethnic disparities in melanoma will prompt public health initiatives,” says Rouhani. “The development of educational campaigns on sun safety and skin cancer awareness should be tailored to the unique needs of Florida.”

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