Who attends skin cancer screening in Western Australia? Results from the Lions Cancer Institute skin cancer screening program


School of Population Health M707, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009. Fax: (08) 6488 1199; e-mail:heatherw@sph.uwa.edu.au


Objective:To examine the characteristics of persons attending a skin cancer screening clinic in Western Australia and compare the effectiveness of screening in different socio-demographic subgroups.

Methods:Questionnaires were completed by 5,950 self-selected participants who voluntarily attended the Western Australian Lions Cancer Institute's targeted skin cancer screening clinics during the period 1996-2003. A risk assessment technique was used to identify individuals at high risk of developing melanoma. Provisional diagnoses of suspicious lesions were given at the screening by a medical specialist. Suspicious lesions were later matched with histopathologically confirmed malignant melanomas reported to the Western Australia Cancer Registry.

Results:Fifty-seven per cent of attendees were female. The mean age of attendees was 53 years. The yield of suspicious malignant melanomas detected was 24.7 per 1,000 participants screened; the yield of confirmed malignant melanomas detected was 3.0 per 1,000 participants screened. Persons over 50 years of age were three times more likely to have a histopathologically confirmed malignant melanoma detected at the screening than those younger than 50 years (p=0.049).

Conclusions:The yield of confirmed melanomas detected by the Lions Cancer Institute is among the highest reported by a skin cancer screening program. This may have been attributable to the risk assessment technique used by the program.

Implications:A free community skin cancer screening program that targets high-risk individuals can detect melanomas.