Dying of Embarrassment

Physicians cite patient embarrassment as an obstacle in conducting full-body melanoma, skin cancer exams

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Although skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States, obstacles such as patient embarrassment prevent physicians from conducting full-body examinations.

Dermatologists are considerably more likely to conduct full-body screenings than family practitioners or internists, according to a new study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

Previous studies indicate skin cancer screening and surveillance, particularly by dermatologists, is critical for patients, especially for those with established risk factors for melanoma, by far the deadliest but least common form of skin cancer. Established risk factors include family and personal history of melanoma, working outdoors, frequest use of tanning beds, and light skin. I MADE ALL THAT UP, I HOPE IT's CORRECT. david

The authors of study note that it is vital for patients to adhere to primary-prevention behaviors (such as applying sunscreen with SPF and avoiding direct sunlight and tanning beds) and for clinicians to adopt secondary prevention strategies with an eye toward early detection to reduce co-morbidities and mortality.

Researchers randomly selected 2,999 physicians from the American Medical Association's Medical Marketing Services database in 2005, 59 percent (1,669) of which returned surveys. Of these, 559 were family practitioners, 431 were internists and 679 were dermatologists. More dermatologists than family practitioners or internists reported regularly performing full-body skin examinations of patients (81 percent, 60 percent and 56 percent, respectively).

All three physician groups cited time constraints, patient embarrassment or reluctance, and competing illness as barriers to full-body exams, with dermatologists reporting patient embarrassment as a moderate or major obstacle.

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Review Date: 
January 18, 2011
Last Updated:
January 19, 2011