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    Established dermatologists improve early self-detection of melanoma

    Results of a new study suggest that having an established dermatologist can make a big difference for patients with self-detected primary melanoma.

    According to research headed by Michelle Y. Cheng, a medical student with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, patients with self-detected primary melanoma who have an established dermatologist are more likely to have thinner lesions at the time of diagnosis than those who don’t have an established dermatologist.

    The researchers sought to determine whether three factors — having had a previous dermatologic examination (an established dermatologist), how recent it was, and the wait time for the appointment — were associated with melanoma invasiveness and depth. They conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study of 388 patients with primary melanoma to assess the association between the characteristics of dermatologic care and melanoma depth at diagnosis.

    The researchers found that patients with an established dermatologist, compared with those without an established dermatologist, were more likely to receive a diagnosis of melanoma in situ (63.6 versus 44.5 percent) and have thinner invasive melanoma (0.48 mm versus 0.61 mm). These patterns were observed for patients with self-detected, but not dermatologist-detected, melanoma. Self-detected melanomas were in situ for 59 percent of patients with an established dermatologist, compared with 37 percent of those without.

    The researchers also found that melanoma invasiveness and depth were unrelated to how recent the last dermatologic examination was or to the wait time for an appointment.

    “Education obtained at the dermatology appointment may improve early self-detection of melanoma, and having an established dermatologist may facilitate earlier evaluation of concerning lesions,” the authors concluded.

    The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.



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