Self-reported naevus density may lead to misclassification of melanoma risk

Accuracy of self-reported moles and mole densities Betz-Stablein 2020

What is known?

The strongest known risk factor for melanoma is having many moles (also called “naevi”). Accurate classification of mole density is therefore important in epidemiologic studies of melanoma risk. Self-reported estimates of mole density have been used in many studies as a cost-effective method compared to labour- and cost-intensive mole counts by dermatologists.

What is new?

This small study asked participants to estimate the density of moles on their body (few (less than 20); some (20-50); many (more than 50)) and then compared these estimates to their actual mole densities based on mole counts by a dermatologist. Of 50 participants, 40% were found to have incorrectly estimated their mole densities.

Younger participants and males were more likely to misclassify their mole density, while those with a history of skin cancer more accurately self-reported.

What does this mean?

Self-reported estimates of mole density are not reliable indicators and may lead to inaccurate assessment of melanoma risk. Larger studies are needed to investigate whether the accuracy of self-reported mole density varies according to age, sex and previous skin cancer history.

Contact: Joanne Aitken

Reference: Betz-Stablein B, Koh U, Plasmeijer EI, Janda M, Aitken JF, Soyer HP, Green AC. Self-reported naevus density may lead to misclassification of melanoma risk. British Journal of Dermatology. (Letter) 2020; 182(6):1488-1490.

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