Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and accounts for an estimated 1 million new cases per year. In the white population, the rate of new melanomas diagnosed yearly has more than doubled from 5/100,000 in 1973 to 12/100,000 in 1990. The current lifetime risks for white persons are estimated to be 28% to 33% for basal cell carcinoma and 7% to 11% for squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer is more common in sun-sensitive, fair-skinned individuals but can occur in any ethnic group, especially with exposure in tropical or sunny climates. Little is known about awareness of skin cancer, risk perception, and performance of skin self-examination (SSE) by people with skin that rarely burns. Our purpose was to evaluate skin cancer awareness, perceptions of skin cancer risk, and performance of SSE in a Hispanic versus non-Hispanic white population with similar access to health care and promotion. One hundred forty people employed by a suburban city voluntarily attended a free skin cancer screening and completed a self-administered survey. Hispanic individuals reported decreased skin sensitivity and tendency to burn. Non-Hispanic individuals believed they were at greater than average risk for skin cancer, and most Hispanics believed they were at average or below average risk. None of the 27 Hispanics reported ever being taught SSE. More non-Hispanics (32%) had performed SSE within the last year than Hispanics (15%). Regular SSE was associated with a history of skin cancer. Multimedia messages usually link skin cancer warning signs and early detection strategies with having sun-sensitive skin. People without sun sensitivity did not perceive themselves as being at risk, did not learn the warning signs of skin cancer, and did not perform SSE. Awareness of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer and perception of risk among Hispanics were less than among non-Hispanics, which may contribute to presentation for care at an advanced stage.
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