Skin cancer prevention and detection practices among siblings of patients with melanoma

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Oct;49(4):631-8. doi: 10.1067/s0190-9622(03)02126-1.


Background: Family members of patients with melanoma have an increased risk of the disease, and families with multiple affected members account for about 10% of melanoma cases. These statistics suggest that first-degree relatives of patients with melanoma, who are at particularly high risk, warrant targeted public health action.

Objective: We sought to document rates for dermatologist examinations for cutaneous lesions, the practice of skin self-examination, and sunscreen use in this at-risk group.

Methods: Before participation in a randomized trial, 404 siblings of recently diagnosed patients with melanoma completed a survey on beliefs and practices regarding skin cancer prevention and detection.

Results: Sixty-two percent of participants had carefully examined their skin, 54% routinely used sunscreen, and 27% had received a skin cancer examination by a dermatologist during the past year; 47% had never received a dermatologist examination. Multivariate analysis found modifiable positive predictors for skin self-examination and dermatologist examinations, including having a clinician with whom to talk about melanoma and believing in the importance of regular skin examinations by a physician. Significant modifiable negative predictors included enjoyment of being tanned, not being sure what to look for when examining moles, and feeling uncomfortable having others look at their skin.

Conclusions: Skin self-examination rates among these high-risk siblings are markedly higher than in population-based studies. However, many siblings were not screened for skin cancer by a dermatologist despite having strong risk profiles, being nearly fully insured, and being under care of primary care physicians. Improvements in communication between physicians and high-risk families and changes in office systems to assess family history of melanoma could increase screening rates for the estimated 1 million siblings of patients with melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Melanoma / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Examination
  • Siblings*
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*