Public awareness and education may lead to the detection of thinner melanomas, which may result in a decrease in morbidity and mortality rates. Which detection patterns, lesion, and patient characteristics are associated with early detection?
Using the University of Michigan prospective melanoma database, the detection patterns, lesion characteristics, and patient characteristics of 1515 consecutive patients with in situ or invasive cutaneous melanomas were reviewed. Tumor thickness (measured in millimeters) was evaluated in relationship to detection patterns (patient, physician, spouse), lesion characteristics (change in color, size, shape/elevation, ulceration, bleeding, tenderness, itching), and patient characteristics (gender, skin type, number of atypical and clinically benign nevi, history of sunburn, personal and family history of melanoma).
Patient characteristics associated with early detection included female gender, at least one atypical nevus, greater than 20 clinically benign nevi, and/or a personal history of melanoma. Skin types I, II, and III, a history of sunburn, and/or a family history of melanoma were also associated with thinner lesions, but these associations were not statistically significant. Lesion characteristics associated with earlier detection included a change in color, size, shape/elevation, and/or itching. Physician-detected melanomas were significantly thinner than patient or spouse-detected lesions.
Educational campaigns should include increasing melanoma awareness in males and educating the public on the early signs and symptoms. Education should be directed at both high and low-risk groups. Physicians should consider performing total skin examinations routinely on patients. Although they detect a relatively small percentage of all melanomas, physicians detect significantly thinner lesions. Cancer 2002;95:1562–8. © 2002 American Cancer Society.