Checkups important to curb invasive melanomas

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A simple skin exam can significantly reduce the odds of being diagnosed with invasive melanoma, according to a new study. And these results hold true for patients who have had even a single skin exam as compared to those patients with no history of dermatologic examination.

Dr. Michelle Cheng of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues reviewed the records of 387 patients who had recently been diagnosed with melanoma. They found that 44 percent of those patients had invasive cancer and 38 percent had seen a dermatologist in the past year. Of those who had seen a dermatologist, 64 percent of the melanomas were in situ the tumor had not metastasized versus 46 percent in patients who had not seen a dermatologist. Lesion thickness was also less in patients who had seen a dermatologist.

Furthermore, among those patients who had seen a dermatologist previously, patient-detected and dermatologist-detected lesions had the same likelihood of being diagnosed as invasive. In those patients who had not seen a dermatologist prior to diagnosis, patient-detected lesions were more likely to be invasive.

This study strongly supports the idea that a skin exam is the most effective tool in protecting against fatal melanoma. However, optimal timing and frequency of skin exams still remains unclear.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments While this study demonstrates what should be obvious, hopefully it will impress people enough to instigate additional visits to a dermatologist. This is particularly important for people who have suffered severe sunburns in the past, and is a good idea for others as well.