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Minding Melanoma: Prevention and disparities among people of color

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Posted at 8:38 PM, Jun 14, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona claims 300 sunny days per year and the sun can be relentless. If you're not careful it can have a long-lasting impact on your life, but there are some ways to stay safe and that applies to people of all complexions.

According to the American Cancer Society, over 106,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year alone.

While Caucasians are 20 times more likely to get it than people of color.

RELATED: Minding Melanoma: Taking a deep dive into the disease

The reality is when it's diagnosed in people of color its typically in the deadliest of stages. That’s one of the issues that University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute Co-Director and PhD. Robin Harris is trying to resolve.

"The rate for melanoma is now 30 per 100,000 in Arizona compared to 22.7 per 100,000 in the United States as a whole," Harris said.

Harris specializes in cancer prevention and environmental health disparities. Her goal is to educate the public through schools and outreach.

"We say you should be an ACE avoid excessive exposure, cover up if necessary and then examine," Harris said.

Harris is also part of the Arizona Melanoma Task Force. The group focuses on tracking under-reported melanoma cases in the state to find solutions and to keep up to date information on cases.

"We think we're reporting correctly but our problems are still here," Harris said.

RELATED: Minding Melanoma: Surgery and treatment

Banner University Medical Center oncologist Dr. Jim Warneke says people of color are part of a group that can unfortunately get a late and deadly diagnosis. He also wants to clear up some misconceptions.

"A lot of our patients that are darker skinned didn't think they could get melanoma or it's in an unusual location like on the foot, and they don't think it can be a skin cancer and think it's something else,” Warneke said

Doctor Warneke also says having access to medical insurance is a big factor on when patients decide to get checked.

"Melanoma is 85% curable and a lot of that cure rate is dependent on how thick it is and how early it's found. A big plea is to get those moles checked get in to get seen," Warneke said.

Aside from common area like moles, melanoma can appear on the palms on your hands, soles our feet and as a dark streak on your nails.