AlohaCare Monthly Check Up: Melanoma

By Tannya Joaquin - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) A lot of people don't realize there are four different types of melanoma.

One of them is called the "hidden melanoma," and it's catching many by surprise.

Mindy Clepper and Valerie Sugawa had similar experiences with skin cancer despite opposite skin types.

"I noticed a splinter like mark on my back," Clepper said. "It looked like an underlying splinter."

"I had a mole on my heel from since I was young, but just last year it started to change," said Sugawa.

Both women turned to Oueen's Oncologist Dr. Shane Morita to remove their melanoma.

Mindy's fair skin put her at high risk.

But a lesser known melanoma is hitting non-caucasians like Valerie hard too. Valerie had what's called "acral melanoma" on her heel.

"Ms. Sugawa had melanoma on her heel unlikely related to sun exposure," Morita said. "That's the type we're investigating as far as why it's happening."

Dr. Morita noticed a trend with patients, and checked the tumor registry. He found that the majority of melanoma cases are Caucasian patients, but, that minorities are more likely to die from it.

Acral melanoma was reggae legend Bob Marley's cause of death.

Morita received a national grant to study the ethnic disparity with a lot to gain from his research.

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