Monday, April 8, 2013

A Single Skin Exam Could Save Your Life

Did you know that visiting a dermatologist for a skin exam just one time could save your life? According to a recent review of more than 400 skin cancer cases, a single skin exam may significantly reduce the odds of invasive melanoma, an advanced form of skin cancer where the cancer cells penetrate into surrounding tissues.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, reviewed the medical records of 400 adult patients with newly diagnosed melanoma. Patients who had visited a dermatology clinic at least once were 37 percent less likely to have invasive disease at melanoma diagnosis than patients who had not undergone a professional skin exam prior to diagnosis.

A skin exam was also associated with an approximate 25 percent reduction in lesion thickness at diagnosis. Overall patients with melanoma who had visited a dermatologist’s office had a better prognosis than those without a history of past dermatologic examination.

“Our research suggests that patients benefit from even a single total body skin examination, which may be due to increased skin self-awareness or education about melanoma by the dermatologist,” said Jacqueline Moreau, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh.

Among the patients studied, those who had visited the dermatologist had a higher rate of self-detection of noninvasive skin cancer, which suggests dermatologists play a critical role in educating individuals about the risk of skin cancer.

"Dermatologists should recognize that total body skin examinations are opportunities not only to detect melanoma but also to educate patients so they can detect their own melanomas at earlier, more treatable stages,” said Moreau.

Researchers found that the benefit of the dermatology visit was independent of its timing. They observed no significant difference in melanoma invasiveness or depth between individuals who had seen their dermatologists less than one year versus more than one year prior to diagnosis.

The results of this study are clear: you should never underestimate the benefit of visiting your dermatologist! Early diagnosis via skin examination affords the best protection against fatal melanoma, even if optimal timing and frequency of skin exams remains unclear. To make an appointment today with Greenville Dermatology, call (864) 282-5872.

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