Skin cancer in Latinos on the rise

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The constant, strong Arizona sunshine results in a much higher rate of skin cancer than the national average. And among Hispanics, melanoma has increased 20% over the past two decades.

Hispanics still have a lower rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Whites, but they have a higher mortality rate. We discussed skin cancer among Hispanics with Dr. Miguel Gonzalez-Velez, a melanoma and sarcoma physician at Dignity Health Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Skin cancer rates in Hispanics are at about 42 cases for every 100,000 cases in Arizona, but nationally there are around 30 cases for every 100,000 people.

“It has been increasing for many reasons, but the most important part is the sun exposure without protection,” Dr. Gonzalez-Velez said. “We have to understand that most of the Hispanic population live primarily in the southern states, which correlates with high sun intensity. Particularly with Arizona, we have the highest rate of UV, ultraviolet sun exposure, in all the states in the U.S.”

Due to that high rate of ultraviolet exposure in Arizona, it is important for everyone, regardless of skin color or race, to protect their skin, Dr. Gonzalez-Velez said.

According to Dr. Gonzalez-Velez, Latinos may feel that they may not need to wear sun protectant because they may feel safer since their skin may tan or not burn as easily. “This is a false misconception that some of the Hispanic communities have, and we have to change this mindset. Everybody has to be aware of the risk of the sun,” he said.

When looking for signs of melanoma, Dr. Gonzalez-Velez said to keep ABCDE in mind when checking skin moles: Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolution or change in the moles.

Getting an annual skin cancer screening by a dermatologist is vital in preventing and diagnosing skin cancer at an early stage.

Dr. Miguel Gonzalez-Velez, Dignity Health Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

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