56 Percent of Melanomas Not Found by Patients

Roughly 56 percent of potentially deadly melanoma skin cancers are found not by patients but through full-body skin examinations conducted by a dermatologist, new research shows.

Skin cancers detected by dermatologists were thinner and more likely to be only on the outer layer of skin than were cancers detected by patients.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages.

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The current findings are based on 126 patients with melanoma who were seen at a private dermatology practice from July 2005 to October 2008. Seventy-five of the melanomas were early-stage skin cancers and 51 were more advanced.

According to a report in the latest issue of the Archives of Dermatology, a dermatologist detected 56.3 percent of the melanomas, while the remainder was identified by the patients.

The bulk of early melanomas (60 patient) were detected by the dermatologist, Drs. Deborah Kantor and Jonathan Kantor, from North Florida Dermatology Associates, Jacksonville, note in their report.

Moreover, the physician-detected skin cancers were not as deep as the patient-detected tumors and they were five times more likely to measure less than 1 millimeter than were those found by the patient.

The current findings, while supportive of full-body screening for skin cancer, are not definitive, Dr. Daniel G. Federman, from VA Connecticut Health Care, West Haven, and colleagues note in a related editorial. "Although 'more research is needed' is an overused statement," they add, "the claim does apply to the current situation."