Take a Close Look, Doc

Melanoma detection rates physician and patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) More than any other factor, early detection of melanoma is key. While you might be more familiar with your moles, apparently fresh eyes are best.

Research on melanoma detection has revealed that while patients are in an ideal position to find the majority of melanomas, an examination by a physician is more likely to identify a melanoma even when patients are given training on what to look for.

Overall, doctors were able to identify skin cancers several stages earlier than patients.

"Ask your doctor about any suspicious changes in a mole."

A group of dermatologists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found that physicians correctly identify up to 82 percent of melanomas upon routine physical examination, whereas patients report their suspicion of melanoma to the doctor the remaining 18 percent.

The study was an analysis of records from a skin cancer clinic in New York City. Patients who were determined to be at high risk for developing skin cancer were taught how to perform a self examination and what they should look for.

These results were compared to first time visitors to the skin cancer clinic. Over the ten year period, 527 melanomas were identified in 394 different patients.

The New York University School of Medicine recommends patients use the ABCDE rule when looking at unusual skin pigmentation, and seeing a doctor if any of the following apply.

  • Asymmetry - (One half does not resemble the other half)
  • Border - ink blot patterns
  • Colors - mixed brown with red, black, blue, gray or white
  • Diameter - more than 6 mm
  • Evolving - changes in size, shape, or color, or a totally new mark

The authors of the study summarized their conclusions by stating ,"It is crucial to emphasize that a combined strategy of physician detection and patient participation must continue to be implemented to ensure early melanoma diagnosis."

Study results were published in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

This study was supported in part by the Lloyd Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 3, 2012
Last Updated:
May 6, 2012