Rates of Melanoma Deaths Differ by Education
Article date: February 3, 2012
By Stacy Simon
A new study from the American Cancer Society found that declines in deaths from melanoma, a kind of skin cancer, are limited to those with the most education. Deaths from melanoma among non-Hispanic whites ages 25 to 64 have been falling since the early 1990s. But it had not been known whether death rates differed according to education level. The study focused on whites because they are at higher risk for developing melanoma – 5 times as likely as Hispanics and 20 times as likely as African-Americans.
The researchers reviewed death certificates for non-Hispanic whites who died from melanoma in 26 states from 1993 to 2007. They found that the death rate fell almost 10% overall. But the declines occurred only in those who had more than a high school education. Level of education is frequently used to help indicate socioeconomic status. And previous studies have found that people with lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have regular skin checks by a dermatologist. Skin checks can find melanoma earlier, when it’s easier to treat.
Lead researcher, Vilma Cokkinides, PhD, said lower socioeconomic status is associated with less awareness about melanoma and less access to dermatologists. She said people in this group are more likely to hold occupations that expose them to the sun, (sun exposure is a major risk factor for melanoma) and less likely to have adequate health insurance.
Dr. Cokkinides said, “We need better programs to reach out to low education patients and to alert and educate physicians. We need to figure out the needs of lower education groups in understanding the importance of bringing the early symptoms of skin changes to the attention of a doctor.”
The study was published online January 16, 2012 in Archives of Dermatology.
The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. Sometimes melanoma does not fit the “rules,” so it is important to tell your doctor about any skin changes or growths that look different.
You can lower your risk of melanoma by taking a few simple steps:
• Limit your time in the sun, especially during the peak hours of 10am to 4pm. Seek shade.
• Cover up with clothing, hats, and sunglasses as much as possible when you are in the sun.
• Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on exposed skin and reapply it frequently.
Learn more about reducing your risk of skin cancer at cancer.org/sunsafety.
Citation: Trends in Melanoma Mortality Among Non-Hispanic Whites by Educational Attainment, 1993-2007. Published online January 16, 2012 in Archives of Dermatology First author: Vilma Cokkinides, PhD, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.
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