The impact of physician screening on melanoma detection

Arch Dermatol. 2011 Nov;147(11):1269-75. doi: 10.1001/archdermatol.2011.181. Epub 2011 Jul 18.


Objective: To compare melanoma characteristics and detection patterns in new vs established patients in a pigmented lesion clinic at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) during a 10-year period.

Design: Single-center historical cohort study.

Setting: Academic practice of 2 dermatologists with expertise in the management of pigmented skin lesions.

Patients: The study included 394 patients diagnosed with cutaneous melanoma at MSKCC between 1998 and 2008. For the purposes of this study, we separated patients into 2 groups: established patients, defined as patients who have received professional services in a pigmented lesion clinic at MSKCC for at least 3 months, vs new patients, defined as patients new to our practice.

Main outcome measures: Melanoma histologic characteristics and patterns of melanoma detection in established vs new patients.

Results: Established patients had more in situ disease (70% vs 57%; P < .001) and thinner invasive melanomas (0.45 mm vs 0.82 mm; P = .002) and were less likely to present with negative prognostic attributes such as ulceration and dermal mitoses compared with new patients. In new patients, 63% of melanomas were physician detected vs 82% in established patients; 18% of all melanomas were patient detected. Dermatologist-detected melanomas were thinner compared with self-detected melanomas. The majority of self-detected melanomas were noted by patients because of change (64%). The overall benign to malignant biopsy ratio over the 10-year period was 5.4:1.

Conclusion: Physician-based screening leads to higher rates of physician-detected melanoma and detection of thinner melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult