Association between melanoma detected during routine skin checks and mortality

descriptive epidemiology

What is known?

Australia has the highest rate of melanoma in the world. This places a considerable burden on individuals and public health resources.

It has been found that melanomas detected through routine clinical skin examinations are more likely to be diagnosed at an early stage, compared to melanomas that are self-detected by the patient.

Many countries continue to have increasing rates of melanoma diagnoses. Population-based melanoma screening programs have been proposed to improve early detection and reduce morbidity and mortality. However, there is currently insufficient evidence that these screening programs will reduce rates of mortality from melanoma.

What is new?

In a New South Wales population-based study, 2452 people who were diagnosed with melanoma (between 2006 and 2007) were followed up until 2018. Patients recorded whether each melanoma was discovered during a routine clinical skin check, or it was self-detected.

The results showed that people whose melanomas were detected through a routine clinical skin check had a 25% lower mortality (from any cause) compared to those whose melanomas were self-detected. There was no significant association between routine skin checks and melanoma-specific mortality.

The people who were more likely to have a melanoma detected by a routine clinical skin check, rather than self-detection were:
• men
• older patients,
• those who had a previous melanoma.

What does this mean?

Routine skin checks by doctors contribute to early diagnosis of melanomas and are associated with lower overall mortality rates. Further research is still needed to determine whether population screening programs for melanoma result in reduced melanoma-specific mortality rates.

Contact: Joanne Aitken

Watts CG, McLoughlin K, Goumas C, van Kemenade C, Aitken JF, Soyer P, Peñas P, Guitera P, Scolyer R, Morton R, Menzies S, Caruana M, Kang Y, Mann G, Chakera A, Madronio C, Armstrong B, Thompson J, Cust A. Association Between Melanoma Detected During Routine Skin Checks and Mortality. JAMA Dermatology. 2021. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2021.3884

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