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Summary

Background  Little is known about the potential benefit of skin self-examination for melanoma prevention and early detection.

Objectives  To determine whether skin self-examination is associated with reduced melanoma risk, self-detection of tumours, and reduced risk of deeper melanomas.

Methods  We used data from a population-based case–control study (423 cases, 678 controls) to assess recent skin self-examination in relation to self-detection, melanoma risk and tumour depth ( ≤1 mm; > 1 mm). Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and confidence intervals (CIs) for associations of interest.

Results  Skin self-examination conducted 1–11 times during a recent year was associated with a possible decrease in melanoma risk (OR 0·74; 95% CI 0·54–1·02). Melanoma risk was decreased for those who conducted skin self-examination and saw a doctor (OR 0·52; 95% CI 0·30–0·90). Among cases, those who examined their skin were twice as likely to self-detect the melanoma (OR 2·23; 95% CI 1·47–3·38), but self-detection was not associated with shallower tumours. Tumour depth was reduced for those who conducted skin self-examination 1–11 times during a recent year (OR 0·39; 95% CI 0·18–0·81), but was not influenced by seeing a doctor, or by conducting skin self-examination and seeing a doctor.

Conclusions  Risk of a deeper tumour and possibly risk of melanoma were reduced by skin self-examination 1–11 times annually. Melanoma risk was markedly reduced by skin self-examination coupled with a doctor visit. We cannot, however, exclude the possibility that our findings reflect bias or confounding. Additional studies are needed to elucidate the potential benefits of skin self-examination for melanoma prevention and early detection.