How much time elapses from a cancer diagnosis to definitive surgical treatment may affect survival, yet some patients experience longer delays than others. According to new findings published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, these delays are particularly common among African Americans with melanoma, who are known to face a worse prognosis compared with their white counterparts, reports Healio.  

The study investigated racial differences in time to surgery following a melanoma diagnosis and included data from the National Cancer Database on more than 233,000 patients with melanoma, including 1,221 Black patients.

Results showed that Black patients with Stage I to Stage III melanoma had to wait much longer for definitive surgery after diagnosis than white patients. Black patients also had to wait longer to receive immunotherapy treatment. (This wasn’t the case among Black and white patients with Stage IV melanoma.)

After researchers controlled for sociodemographic factors, such as insurance type, Black patients had a more than twofold risk of having a time from diagnosis to definitive surgery of 31 to 60 days and more than a threefold risk of experiencing a 61- to 90-day delay.

“Additionally, we found that Black patients also had increased time from diagnosis to definitive surgery despite living closer to hospitals, suggesting that physical distance from the hospital is not as much of a contributor to time from diagnosis to definitive surgery for melanoma as for other cancers,” said Raghav Tripathi, MPH, of the departments of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, both located in Cleveland.

“Time from diagnosis to definitive surgery is an important contributor to survival in patients with melanoma,” said Tripathi, who suggested that understanding exactly what contributes to worse outcomes among Black patients could lead to a targeted approach that can help reduce racial disparities in melanoma treatment and outcomes.

For related coverage, read “Treating Melanoma Patients Before Surgery” and “2020 Melanoma Mortality Rates Decreasing Despite Ongoing Increase in Incidence.”