Advanced presentation of melanoma in African Americans



      Melanoma in African Americans is rare, and the diagnosis is often delayed, leading to advanced presentation and poor prognosis.


      The purpose of this retrospective study is to determine whether African American patients diagnosed with melanoma at the Washington Hospital Center were initially seen with more advanced disease than white patients.


      A retrospective chart review was performed on 36 African American patients who were diagnosed and/or treated for melanoma at the Washington Hospital Center between 1981 and 2000. Data obtained included patient age at presentation, sex, Breslow's depth and histologic subtype, stage at presentation, and tumor location. These data were compared with information obtained from white patients with melanoma during this period.


      A total of 649 African American and white patients were treated for melanoma at the Washington Hospital Center between 1981 and 2000. Of these, 36 (6.1%) patients were African American. African American patients were more likely to initially be seen with stage III/IV disease (32.1%) compared with (12.7%) the white patients initially seen with these disease stages. Of the white patients 60.4% were initially seen with melanoma in situ/stage I disease compared with 39.3% of the African American patients. The 5-year survival rate was 58.8% in African Americans compared with 84.8% in whites.


      In our series, African Americans are more likely than whites to be initially seen with advanced disease and have a subsequent worse prognosis. Physician training and patient education campaigns are crucial to improving the poor prognosis associated with melanoma in the African American community.
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