Following Up on Melanoma

Early-detection rates and better prognoses of melanoma among patients enrolled in a follow-up program

(RxWiki News) A follow-up program designed for patients at high risk of developing melanoma has been found to improve early-detection rates and prognoses.

Identifying and then closely tracking individuals who are at high risk for developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is associated with better outcomes, according to a new study from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona. Those at highest risk of developing melanoma include fair-skinned individuals with blue eyes, blond or red hair, and those with many pigmented lesions, including freckles.

Dermoscopy in particular appears to improve accuracy of melanoma diagnoses, according to the study. This technique allows physicians to perform a microscopic evaluation of a skin lesion.

The study analyzed data from 201 patients who were diagnosed with melanoma, including 40 who were enrolled in a follow-up program and 161 who were referred for evaluation by another physician. Of the melanomas diagnosed, all were evaluated with dermascopy.

Most of the melanomas diagnosed in the follow-up did not present all of the identifying characteristics of the disease, which include asymmetrical borders of the lesion, different colors present in one lesion and differential dermoscopic structures. A total of 64 percent of the melanomas identified in the referral group presented all of these characteristics, which usually means the melanoma has advanced.

A total of 70 percent of the melanomas diagnosed in the follow-up group had not spread (aka stage 0), compared with 27.9 percent of those in the referred group.

The study authors conclude that follow-up programs allow physicians to detect melanoma earlier with better prognosis, even without clinical and dermoscopic features of the disease.

More than 8,000 Americans died from melanoma in 2009, according to the American Melanoma Foundation.

Review Date: 
January 18, 2011