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People with fair skin, blue eyes and red hair still have the highest risk of skin cancer, but doctors say the number of darker-skinned patients with skin lesions is rising, both under the hot Texas sun and nationally.
Dr. Bahar F. Firoz of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio says melanoma is increasing among Hispanic women in particular.
“Among Hispanic women of all ages in Texas, melanoma incidence increased 4.8 percent every year from 2002 to 2006. That is a very high rate,” Dr. Firoz said. “In Hispanic women over 50, this incidence is a whopping 10.8 percent. Overall, the incidence of melanoma is increasing in darker-skinned patients.”
Dr. Firoz, assistant professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery in the Health Science Center School of Medicine, sees patients through UT Medicine San Antonio.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. The most common types are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. “Deep melanomas can metastasize and lead to death,” Dr. Firoz said.
Texas has seen an “epidemic of melanoma the last few years,” Dr. Firoz said. Because sun exposure and sunburns have been linked to higher rates of skin cancer, the rate of melanoma increase in Texas Hispanics may be related to the Texas sun, she said.
Nationally, in Hispanic patients under age 50, the increase of melanoma in incidence is 4.5 percent a year.
“People of color need to be aware that they still have a risk for skin cancer, and that skin cancer is on the rise, especially in Texas,” Dr. Firoz said. “Patients should be checked at least once a year for skin cancer.”
Read tips on preventing cancer here from the UT Health Science Center.