Background: Total body cutaneous photography is increasingly being used by dermatologists to monitor patients at risk for the development of melanoma, but limited evidence exists regarding the impact of such photography on melanoma and melanoma-related outcomes.
Objective: We sought to compare biopsy number in patients with multiple atypical nevi in their first year of care at our pigmented lesion clinic (PLC) between those who received total body skin examination alone and those who received total body skin examination and total body digital photography (TBDP). We sought to identify predictors of biopsy number and number of dysplastic nevi diagnosed in patients with multiple atypical nevi.
Methods: A chart review was performed of patients attending the PLC during the years 1998 to 2003 to identify the number of biopsies performed in the first year of care. Patient demographics, melanoma risk factors, and melanoma outcome events were also abstracted from the charts.
Results: The mean number of biopsies performed in patients in their first year of care at the PLC in those who did not receive TBDP was equal to the mean number of biopsies performed in patients who did receive TBDP (0.82 and 0.8, respectively). Linear regression analysis revealed that the interaction term between a lack of both personal history of melanoma and severe dysplastic nevi (-0.930, P = .005) has a significant protective effect on the number of biopsies. Similar regression analysis also showed that the interaction term between a lack of both personal history of melanoma and of severe dysplastic nevi (-1.209, P < .0001), increasing provider experience (-0.047, P = .029), and increased number of biopsies before the initial PLC (-0.028, P = .050) have a statistically significant protective effect on the number of dysplastic nevi diagnosed in the first year of PLC. TBDP did not have an effect on the number of biopsies or on the number of dysplastic nevi diagnosed in the first year of care at the PLC.
Limitations: This study is limited by being retrospective in nature, having a small sample size, and having a short follow-up period.
Conclusion: Overall, this small retrospective study does not provide evidence that would suggest that TBDP changes provider behavior in caring for patients at high risk for melanoma. Rather, our study supports the fact that a patient's positive history of melanoma and a history of severe dysplastic nevi have the most significant impact on provider biopsy behavior, resulting in a lower threshold to biopsy suggestive lesions.