Effectiveness of a Skin Cancer Control Educational Intervention for Internal Medicine Housestaff and Attending Physicians


Dr. Dolan : Division of General Internal Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, 303 E. Ohio, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60611.



To evaluate the effects of a brief educational program on beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors related to skin cancer control among internal medicine housestaff and attending physicians.


Randomized controlled trial.


Urban academic general medicine practice.


Internal medicine housestaff and attending physicians with continuity clinics at the practice site.


Two 1-hour educational seminars on skin cancer control conducted jointly by a general internist and a dermatologist.


Self-reported attitudes and beliefs about skin cancer control, ability to identify and make treatment decisions on 18 skin lesions, and knowledge of skin cancer risk factors were measured by a questionnaire before and after the teaching intervention. Exit surveys of patients at moderate to high risk of skin cancer were conducted 1 month before and 1 month after the intervention to measure physician skin cancer control practices reported by patients. Eighty-two physicians completed baseline questionnaires and were enrolled in the study, 46 in the intervention group and 36 in the control group. Twenty-five physicians attended both sessions, 11 attended one, and 10 attended neither. Postintervention, the percentage of physicians feeling adequately trained increased from 35% to 47% in the control group ( p= .34) and from 37% to 57% in the intervention group ( p= .06). Intervention physicians had an absolute mean improvement in their risk factor identification score of 6.7%, while control physicians’ mean score was unchanged ( p= .06). Intervention and control physicians had similar increases in their postintervention lesion identification and management scores. Postintervention, the mean proportion of patients per physician stating they were advised to watch their moles increased more among intervention physicians than control physicians (absolute difference of 19% vs 8%, p= .04). Other changes in behavior were not significant.


Although we observed a few modest intervention effects, overall this brief skin cancer education intervention did not significantly affect primary care physicians’ skin cancer control attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, or behaviors. A more intensive intervention with greater participation may be necessary to show a stronger impact on attitudes and knowledge about skin cancer control among primary care physicians.

KEY WORDS: skin cancer; prevention; early detection; primary care; medical education.