Cutaneous melanoma: public health approach to early detection

Dermatol Ther. Jan-Feb 2006;19(1):26-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8019.2005.00053.x.


Melanoma is a major public health problem. There will be a projected 60,000 cases of invasive melanoma diagnosed in 2005, and that number is increasing each year. Fortunately, the prognosis is improving as well, but we still have approximately 8000 deaths per year related to this tumor. To reduce this number of deaths, we need to look at the skin--inspect--and see--recognize potential early melanomas when we look at them. Most of the population does not see a dermatologist regularly, and there are many barriers to general clinicians inspecting the skin, including inadequacy of dermatologic skills. Patients are ultimately responsible for their own skin, but only a small proportion of people actually perform thorough skin self-examination on a recommended monthly basis. There are various tools used by some dermatologists to facilitate early detection, including total body and lesional photography and epiluminescence microscopy (dermoscopy) of lesions. A basic skin cancer triage algorithm has been developed and tested in primary care, with promising results for improving practice. The general population also needs better guidance on early melanoma detection. Hence, instead of relying on the "ABCDs" for a morphologic diagnosis, the message of "a new or changing skin lesion" is being promoted to facilitate early diagnosis of thin, curable tumors. Together, patients and clinicians can improve early detection to reduce melanoma-related mortality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Health Education / organization & administration*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Primary Prevention / organization & administration
  • Prognosis
  • Program Evaluation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Survival Rate
  • United States / epidemiology