Background: Melanoma is a major public health problem for which early detection may reduce mortality. Since melanoma is generally asymptomatic, this requires skin examination. We sought to evaluate the extent to which the general public has their skin examined by themselves, their partners, or health care providers and the frequency of these examinations.
Methods: Random-digit-dial survey of adult Rhode Islanders.
Results: Only 9% performed a thorough skin examination (TSE) at least once every few months, although over half of the sample reported conducting skin self-examination "deliberately and systematically." Participants were more likely to perform TSE if they were women and if their health care provider had asked them to examine their skin. Most participants reported that their health care provider never or rarely looked at the areas of their skin in which melanoma is most likely to arise.
Conclusions: The reported frequency of skin self-examination depends critically on the manner of inquiry. TSE by self or a partner is uncommon, and health care providers do not routinely examine the areas of the skin on which melanomas commonly arise.