New Studies Support Dermatologists' Recommendation: Self-Exams, Screenings Vital for Detecting Skin Cancer

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 General News
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SCHAUMBURG, Ill., May 5 When detected early, most skincancers can be successfully treated. In fact, melanoma, the most serious formof skin cancer, is highly curable when found and treated early. The five-yearsurvival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before itspreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent. However, dermatologists cautionthat finding skin cancer in its earliest stages requires a commitment byindividuals to perform regular skin self-examinations and to report anysuspicious moles or unusual changes to their dermatologist immediately.

Now, new research shows that involving a partner in the self-examinationprocess, particularly one with whom an individual has a good relationship,makes it more likely that self screening will happen and can improve the earlydetection of skin cancer which could lead to a better prognosis.

"The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) has been a leading advocateof the importance of skin self-exams and free community-based screening eventsas a means to detecting skin cancer," said dermatologist C. William Hanke, MD,MPH, FAAD, president of the Academy. "Since its inception in 1985, theAcademy's National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Screening Program has screened morethan 1.8 million people across the country and detected more than 180,170suspicious lesions. This new research confirms what dermatologists have knownfor years -- early detection of skin cancer through self-exams and freescreenings by dermatologists, whether conducted in the community or in theworkplace, can save lives."

Partner-Assisted Skin Self-Exams

In an article entitled "Examination of mediating variables in a partnerassistance intervention designed to increase performance of skinself-examination," published in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of theAmerican Academy of Dermatology, dermatologist June K. Robinson, MD, FAAD,professor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg Schoolof Medicine in Chicago, presented findings that patients at high risk formelanoma benefited when a partner was involved in their skin self-exams.Specifically, the patients who were assisted by a partner in performing skinself-exams were more likely to follow a regular detection routine than thosewho relied solely on themselves for motivation.

Study participants included 130 patients with a history of melanoma whowere randomly assigned to either a solo-learning control group or apartner-learning group. Partners were either a spouse of the participant or aperson living in the same household as the participant for at least one yearprior to the study.

"Our data showed that having a partner assist in skin self-exams led tosignificantly more positive attitudes toward the importance of skinself-exams, higher reports of self-efficacy or confidence in the ability toperform the exams and more comfort with someone helping to examine their skincompared with those in the solo-learning group," explained Dr. Robinson.

Dr. Robinson's extension of the research about this study group sought toidentify if the quality of the relationship with the partner assisting in theskin self-exams would impact the patient's likeliness of performing them. Thearticle entitled "Relationship and partner moderator variables increaseself-efficacy of performing skin self-examination," published in the May 2008issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, examinedrelationship variables that included the quality of the relationship, thepartner's motivation, and the partner's ability to provide support and assistin implementing the outlined skin self-exams.

"We concluded that when the quality of the partner or marital relationshipwas high, the beneficial effects provided by the partner being included in theskin self-exams skills training were the highest -- with patientsdemonstrating a higher degree of self-eff

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