Train Dermatologists to Spot Cancer on Black Skin

TargetSteven J. Stack, M.D., President of the American Medical Association

Goal: Require dermatologists to be trained on how to spot cancer on black skin.

A study presented at a meeting for the Society of Investigative Dermatology found that half of dermatologists said their medical schools did not teach them how to spot cancer on black skin. Less than one out of every 10 dermatology residencies include a rotation to teach how specifically to treat the skin of people of color. Because of these alarming statistics, it is essential that medical schools are required specifically teach students how to spot cancer on and treat black skin.

Black Americans with melanoma are four times as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with the cancer after it has already spread throughout their body. This makes the above statistics especially dangerous because that means that Black Americans have a smaller chance of cancer survival and may endure longer and more intense symptoms.

A review of the studies in the journal Dermatologic Clinics, said “there remains a scarcity of robust basic dermatologic research examining skin of color.”

Racial disparities may only be thought of in terms of social or economic topics. However, these kinds of racial disparities in health care are unfortunately not uncommon, which is completely unacceptable with our advances in both modern medicine and some racial issues.

Immediate action must be taken to correct these disparities and ensure all people, no matter their skin color, have a chance to have cancer detected early on in order to decrease suffering and increase survival chances. Failing to do this for people of color results in an ineffective system that is costing them their lives.

Medical students should have the proper training to be able to detect cancer on any skin type. When physicians receive insufficient training, it can be a real matter of life or death for their patients and shows their school’s failure to educate its students. Demand that medical schools be required to teach how to spot cancer and other skin conditions on black skin.


Dear Dr. Stack,

I am writing to you because there is a lack of training for medical students when it comes to spotting cancer on the skin of people of color. This issue can be life threatening and cause black people to endure longer, unnecessary suffering, and it’s important that the students have experience with all different skin pigments in order to help as many people as possible.

I’m urging you to require dermatology students to be properly trained and be able to identify conditions in all skin types, including the skin of people of color. Doing so will save thousands of lives.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Alex Block

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