Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. If it’s caught and treated early, it doesn’t have to be fatal. However, even in 2020, there are still a lot of misconceptions about this third most common form of skin cancer. These misconceptions too often keep people from taking necessary precautions to prevent it and from seeking medical attention when they show possible signs of it.
Even doctors too often fail to recognize melanoma in time to treat it successfully. In fact, delayed diagnoses and misdiagnoses of melanoma have led to some of the largest malpractice awards in the field of dermatology.
One of the most common — and dangerous — misconceptions around melanoma is that only Caucasian people can get it. People who are African American, Hispanic, Asian and other races often believe that they can’t get melanoma or other forms of skin cancer. They associate it with people who are white — and particularly with people who have extremely fair skin.
That belief is often rooted in the fact that people with darker skin have more melanin. Melanin does provide some protection from the harmful effects of the sun — however, not as much protection as even a lotion with SPF (sun protection factor) 30.
One African American dermatologist says that he encourages all of his patients, regardless of their skin color, to wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30, do regular self-exams and have any suspicious spots or moles checked by a dermatologist.
African Americans are about a quarter as likely to develop melanoma and other types of skin cancer than white people. However, when they do, it’s often not diagnosed until it has entered a more advanced stage. African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to die from melanoma than whites.
As we noted, early diagnosis and proper treatment can significantly improve a person’s chances of surviving skin cancer — even melanoma. If you or a loved one’s melanoma was misdiagnosed or there was a delay in diagnosis due to a doctor’s negligence or error, it’s wise to determine whether you have grounds to file a civil lawsuit by talking to an experienced medical malpractice attorney.