We have been saying all along on Skin Cancer Connection that getting an annual skin exam performed by a dermatologist is a very essential step towards detecting skin cancer. Now there is a study to prove it.
According to a 2009 study published in The Archives of Dermatology over 56% of melanoma skin cancers are not found by patients but are detected by dermatologists who are doing a full body skin exam. Dermatologists Deborah and Jonathan Kantor, from North Florida Dermatology Associates in Jacksonville Florida, took a look at past cases from their private dermatology practice to make this conclusion. The doctors examined the records of 126 patients with melanoma who were seen between July 2005 and October 2008. Of these patients 51 had advanced and invasive melanomas and 75 had melanomas in situ, which means that they had early-stage melanoma skin cancer.
The researchers found that of the early stage melanomas, 60% were detected by dermatologists and not based upon patient complaint. The doctors were finding the thinner melanomas in situ and the dermatologist detected tumors were five times more likely to measure less than one millimeter than the lesions found by patients.
Melanoma is considered to be the most deadly form of skin cancer. The National Cancer Institute provides an estimate that in 2009 approximately 8,650 Americans died due to melanoma. The important thing to remember about melanoma is that it is preventable and can have a high cure rate if caught early. The results of this study show how important it is to schedule your annual skin exam as many early stage melanomas are only being detected by a dermatologist.
The results of this study should not be interpreted to mean that you stop checking your own skin for potential skin cancers. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend that you do a skin self-exam once a month. This is especially important if you have previously been diagnosed with any skin cancers as your risks may be higher for developing new tumors.
Here are some articles to help you check your skin and how to look for any skin abnormalities.
The best way to catch skin cancers early on is to perform a monthly self skin exam as well as to schedule an annual full body skin exam with your dermatologist. While some general practitioners are good at spotting melanomas and other skin cancers, they may not be as skilled at detection as a trained dermatologist. In an article entitled, "Three Point Check List of Dermoscopy: A new screening method for early detection of melanoma" the author suggests that GP's "get it right" only 60% of the time, meaning that they sometimes have difficulty with identifying pre-cancerous or cancerous skin growths and moles. The best person to perform your annual skin exam is a dermatologist.
If you need help finding a certified dermatologist in your area, The American Academy of Dermatology has a "Find a Dermatologist" page to assist you.
Remember that skin cancer and even melanoma can usually be cured if caught early. For more information about preventing, detecting, and living with skin cancer, please keep visiting Skin Cancer Connection for resources and support.
Kantor, J. & Kantor, D. E. (2009) Routine dermatologist-performed full-body skin examination and early melanoma detection. Archives of Dermatology, 145, 873-876.
Soyer P. et al . (2004) Three Point Check List of Dermoscopy: A new screening method for early detection of melanoma. Dermatology, 208, 27-31.
Published On: July 31, 2010