Cleveland Medical Researchers Find Racial, Income Disparities In Skin Care

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Low-income black and Hispanic men are less likely than other groups to see a dermatologist when they have skin problems, according to a new study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Looking at data involving nearly 183,000 dermatology patients across the country, the researchers found the odds of a Hispanic or black patient visiting a dermatologist are about half that of white patients with the same skin condition.

The findings could have serious implications for the men’s health, said Case researcher Raghav Tripathi.  If some patients are not getting routine care it could lead to larger problems, he said.

“For many black Americans in the United State they feel that their risk of skin cancer is almost zero percent. And as we know skin cancer is a very serious thing that can go unnoticed for long periods of time,” Tripathi said. “Eventually it could develop into something that could spread to other parts of the body and actually end up killing people.” 

The researchers did not reach any conclusions about why these disparities exist, but they did look for demographic and socioeconomic patterns associated with using the services of a dermatologist.

Some of the other findings from the study include:

  • Those least likely to see a dermatologist included: men, the uninsured, those in the Midwest, people insured by Medicaid and Medicare and those with a lower income
  • The odds of men seeing a dermatologist were about two-thirds that of women
  • White, educated women were the patients most likely to go to a dermatologist
  • The Affordable Care Act improved access for “low-income and low-education individuals” but didn’t increase these groups’ accessing specialized services such as dermatology.

The study, “Beyond Skin Deep: Understanding Disparities in Dermatology Services,” was recently published in the academic journal, JAMA Dermatology. 

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