ESSENCE.com reports that new research has emerged suggesting minority women are at a greater mortality risk from skin cancer than non-minority groups. The study conducted collectively by doctors from the University of Nevada, University of Miami, Florida Cancer Data System, and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center concluded that Black women in Florida had a significant increase in melanoma occurrence compared to the rest of the country. This, they suggest, indicates an “emerging public health concern in race/ethnic subgroups that were previously understudied.”

Dr. Susan C. Taylor, director of New York’s Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told the magazine that the widely held misconception that Black people do not get skin cancer is a huge part of the problem. “Many people feel that because the melanin pigment in their skin protects them from sunburn and premature aging, that it will also protect them from skin cancer.” said Taylor.

The signs of melanoma for minorities occur in unusual places such as on fingernails and toenails, mucous membranes of the mouth and genitals, as well as the palms of the hand and soles of the feet.

A late diagnosis for a disease that is not as easily diagnosed in Blacks as it is in Whites drastically increases the mortality rate for Blacks. Taylor suggests that patients and their doctors need more education about the disease and more diligence about early detection in minority communities.

“Please examine your skin monthly” she said, “and see a dermatologist yearly for an examination of your skin including your palms, soles, nails and mucous membranes.”