Spotting Skin Cancer

Before Dr. Johnnie Woodson began to remove tiny moles from Rosa Stone’s face, the dermatologist reminded his patient that individuals with dark skin are not immune from sun-inducing skin cancer.

Don’t buy into the myth, the doctor said, that a person with more melanin, or pigment, in the skin is invincible to the harsh effects of ultraviolet rays.

“That misconception can cause a lot of suffering or worse,” Woodson said. “It is true that darker skin means less incidence, but that does not mean there is not a threat of skin cancer.”

Outside Woodson’s Henderson office Wednesday, there was no relief from the desert sun, pushing the temperature well above 100 degrees, the kind of day that can produce a sunburn in 10 minutes.

During those types of days, Woodson steps up his counseling with all his patients on the use of sunblock with a sunburn protection factor of 30.

Sometimes, Woodson said, he must be even more persuasive with patients of color.

“Most of the skin cancer warning messages and ads are geared only toward fair-skinned individuals, so it makes sense that African-Americans and other dark-skinned individuals aren’t as concerned as they should be,” Woodson said.

He heads Woodson Dermatology, a medical practice with offices in Las Vegas and Henderson that includes his wife, Dr. Linda Woodson.

“I grew up in inner-city Detroit, and nobody ever talked to me about what the sun can do,” Woodson said.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 1 million cases are diagnosed annually, according to the national Skin Cancer Foundation.

Around 2 percent of the cancers involving African-Americans are skin cancers, statistics show. Up to 8 percent of those are melanomas, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Woodson noted that more than 95 percent of all melanomas are found in the fair-skinned population.

But he also pointed out that once African-Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, studies have shown that their long-term survival rate is significantly lower than Caucasians: 59 percent to 85 percent.

The fact that African-Americans don’t think they can get the disease undoubtedly plays a role in that difference, Woodson said.

“The sooner you get to the doctor with something suspicious on your body, the better off you are when it comes to treatment,” the doctor said.

Dr. Mona Gohara, a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said the time has come in the United States to include dark-skinned individuals in skin cancer warning messages. “Melanoma has a high cure rate (about 96 percent) if detected early,” she said in a phone call from her office in Dansbury, Conn. “People need to know that everybody is at risk.”

What makes melanomas even more challenging to detect among African-Americans is the fact that more than half the cancers are found on areas of the body that don’t get heavy sun exposure, Gohara said.

Often, she said, melanomas are found on the feet and under the toenails. It is unclear, she said, whether the sun or genes, or a combination of both, cause these melanomas.

The reggae singer from Jamaica, Bob Marley, died at age 36 after contracting melanoma in his big toe. The cancer eventually spread throughout his body. Because of his religious beliefs, he did not allow an amputation that could have saved his life.

“No one knows whether the intense sunlight that came from living below the equator or a genetic predisposition caused that,” Woodson said. “There is a theory that genes play a large role in melanomas in African-Americans.”

Up to 35 percent of the skin cancers contracted by African-Americans are known as basal cell carcinomas, skin cancers that are definitely attributable to the sun. Though rarely fatal, they can be highly disfiguring.

Squamous cell carcinoma is actually the most common form of skin cancer.

It is not linked to the sun, but rather to scarring that can come from burns or ulcers, Gohara said.

After Stone had her moles removed at Woodson’s office, she recalled how little she knew about skin cancer while growing up in Cuba.

“We got burned all the time,” she said. “We were at the ocean every day. I had a friend who got third-degree burns. We thought that you built up a tolerance to the sun. Now I know to wear sunblock. I make my children wear it.

“Cancer does not discriminate on the basis of race,” she said.

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at or 702-387-2908.

Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like