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Cancer. 2000 Jul 15;89(2):342-7.

Patterns of detection in patients with cutaneous melanoma.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.



Despite the importance of early detection in preventing mortality from melanoma, little is known regarding how patients with the disease come to diagnosis.


The authors prospectively evaluated 471 newly diagnosed melanoma patients between 1995 and 1998. Patients completed a questionnaire that included 1) identification of the person who detected the lesion, 2) the anatomic location of the lesion, and 3) family history of melanoma. Logistic regression analysis was performed to examine the relation between detection patterns and lesion thickness, adjusting for age, gender, anatomic site of the primary lesion, and family history of melanoma.


The majority of patients detected their own melanoma (n = 270; 57%). Females were more likely to self-detect than males (69% vs. 47%; P < 0.0001). Physicians detected the melanoma in 16% of patients (n = 74), followed by "spouse" in 11% of patients (n = 51). Within this group, detection by wives was 7.5 times more common than detection by husbands (P < 0.0001). Logistic regression analysis revealed that physicians were 3.6 times more likely to detect thin lesions (</=0.75 mm) compared with nonphysician detectors (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 2.1, 6.5; P = 0.0001). In addition, patients who reported a family history of melanoma had a 2.7-fold increased likelihood of presenting with a thin lesion (95% CI, 1.6, 4.7; P = 0.0003).


Physician detection and a report of a family history of melanoma are associated with the presentation of patients with early melanoma, suggesting that awareness of the disease among physicians and the public is critical for preventing mortality from melanoma. Increasing melanoma awareness in males may be a particularly effective means of secondary prevention.

Copyright 2000 American Cancer Society.

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