Check Out That Body

Skin self examinations occur more often when shown how and prompted to do so

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

(RxWiki News) Sunscreen and shade do help with protecting the skin, but that's only part of the process. Keeping a close eye on those moles and spots is sometimes farther down the checklist.

People are more likely to check their own skin with interactive education and reminders, a new study has found.

"Keep an eye on changing colors and patches on your skin."

The study, led by Savina Aneja, MD, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, focused on patients examining themselves for melanoma, one of the most dangerous skin cancers.

Researchers randomly divided 132 adult participants who were recruited from skin clinics into two groups.

The first group received computer-assisted tutorials combining photographs, cartoons and text.

They also had hands-on tutorials during which a research assistant demonstrated how to examine different angles of the body including the scalp, nails and between toes and fingers.

The group also received monthly reminders on the day and time of their preference to survey their skin for 12 weeks. They also received a brochure from the American Academy of Dermatology on detecting melanoma.

The other group just received the brochure, which is a common form of patient education at health clinics.

At the three-month follow-up, researchers found that the odds the intervention group doing the self skin examination was 2.36 greater than the odds of the group without the tutorials and phone reminders doing self exams.

And those who had the intervention were almost three times more likely to report being confident with their ability to identify melanoma while examining their skin.

The authors say that if people have guidance from computers, the hands-on tutorial and phone reminders combined, patients will be educating themselves, examine themselves more often and be more confident in identifying skin cancer.

"Informing patients that they are at a greater risk for melanoma does not always change self-perceived risk," Dr. Aneja and colleagues wrote in their report.

They note several limitations with their study, including that researchers and participants both knew who was getting the intervention.

Researchers also had to rely on participants to be accurate and true in their self-reports, and it wasn't possible to reach all the participants at follow-up.

Further, it isn't clear if the findings could be applied to the general population.

The study was supported by grants from the Case Western Reserve University Skin Diseases Research Center under the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The study was published online August 20 in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 10, 2012
Last Updated:
October 11, 2012