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Many Hispanics Don't Check for Skin Cancer: Study

FRIDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that more than three out of four Hispanics may fail to examine their skin regularly for signs of cancer.

"We know that the rates of melanoma, one of the deadliest skin cancers, are on the rise globally, and in the United States Hispanics and African-Americans often present to physicians with more advanced cases of the cancer," Dr. Aida Lugo-Somolinos, a professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a university news release.

"We wanted to understand more fully why Hispanic patients weren't performing skin self-exams and what role the physician was playing in the process, especially since skin self-exams may lead to earlier melanoma diagnosis," Lugo-Somolinos said.

The researchers surveyed Hispanic patients at Piedmont Health Services in Carrboro, N.C.; the university's dermatology clinics; and El Pueblo, a Hispanic advocacy group in Raleigh, N.C.

Fewer than one in four patients knew about risk factors for skin cancer, such as sun exposure. Nine percent underwent regular skin exams, and fewer than one in four examined their own skin for signs of cancer.

Lugo-Somolinos said dark-skinned people in the United States face a lower risk of skin cancer, but they can still develop the disease.

"We want to encourage primary-care providers to help make their non-Caucasian patients aware that they are also at risk for skin cancer -- especially through sun exposure -- even with darker skin," she said.

Why might Hispanics face special challenges when it comes to skin cancer prevention?

"We did not find patient modesty to be a barrier, but what we did find was that patients felt they didn't have enough time with physicians to ask about preventive care such as skin exams," Lugo-Somolinos said. "We also learned that physicians were not taking the opportunity to raise the subject with their patients, as they do with other health promotion topics such as smoking cessation or seat belt use."

The study was published earlier this year in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

More information

For more about skin cancer, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, Aug. 27, 2013

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