I’m all for finding skin cancer early. It makes treatment so much more simple and effective. This is reinforced in the recent article by Alan C. Geller, of the Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues in the April issue of Archives of Dermatology. The study shows that routine screening for melanoma can lead to a 50% increase in detection of small back-of-body lesions. These lesions on the back are ones that are often missed by the patients themselves.
The study surveyed 227 men ≥40 within three months of melanoma diagnosis. They found that more than half (59%) had not received a full-body physical examination by a physician prior to diagnosis of melanoma.
Melanoma can present anywhere on the body, but in men the back is the most common site, making up nearly a third of all cases. The study found that back lesions made up nearly half of all physician-detected lesions, and back-of-the-body lesions comprised 63% of physician-detected melanoma. It is also important to note that 92% of physician-detected back-of-body lesions were thinner than 2 mm, compared with 63% of self-detected and 76% of other-detected lesions.
The authors are urging the promotion of the " 'Watch Your Back' education campaigns.
Each month examine your skin everywhere, including the palms and soles. Use a hand mirror and a full length mirror to see your back. Ask you spouse or partner to check your back. Ask you doctor to check you skin once a year.
Look for a new growth, or any skin change, and know your ABCD’s.
“A” for Asymmetry – Basically, one side does not look like the other.
“B” for Border irregularity – Lots of moles grow, but beware of irregular jagged borders
“C” for Color Variation – Lots of moles have pigment, but be wary of different colors in the same mole.
“D” for Diameter – Moles that are larger than a head of a pencil eraser (about 6mm.) are more concerning for melanoma
The proportion of patients reporting full-body examinations in the year prior to diagnosis did not differ among men with physician-detected (43%), self-detected (41%), or other-detected melanoma (52%).
Factors associated with physician discovery of early melanoma in middle-aged and older men; Arch Dermatol 145(4): 409-14; Geller AC, et al
Melanoma Review (February 25, 2008)
Skin Cancer—Melanoma (December 8, 2008)