Although the rates of melanoma are notably higher in people with fair skin, Black and Hispanic patients tend to present with more advanced disease and have worse outcomes relative to White patients. Similarly, the authors of this study found that a rare and aggressive skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma was more common among White people but Black people were more likely to present with advanced disease. Remarkably, however, compared to White individuals, Black people and Hispanic people with Merkel cell carcinoma had similar or better survival rates, respectively.
What is exciting about this article?
Racial and ethnic health disparities are reported in most cancer types. However, in this report, the researchers found no survival disparity with Merkel cell carcinoma. They hypothesized that the expected differences in outcomes, driven by systemic health care inequities, are masked by different susceptibilities to Merkel cell carcinoma subtypes among racial and ethnic groups. Ongoing studies will test this hypothesis.
How does this fit into the larger NIAMS portfolio?
It is critically important to understand how race and ethnicity influence the diagnosis and care of skin diseases, including skin cancer. Because skin color can influence both racial/ethnic identity and the skin’s biological response to sun exposure, these types of studies help us better understand health disparities and skin biology.
AR041222 and AR041224
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIHʼs National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.