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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Oct;49(4):631-8.

Skin cancer prevention and detection practices among siblings of patients with melanoma.

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  • 1Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



Family members of patients with melanoma have an increased risk of the disease, and families with multiple affected members account for about 10% of melanoma cases. These statistics suggest that first-degree relatives of patients with melanoma, who are at particularly high risk, warrant targeted public health action.


We sought to document rates for dermatologist examinations for cutaneous lesions, the practice of skin self-examination, and sunscreen use in this at-risk group.


Before participation in a randomized trial, 404 siblings of recently diagnosed patients with melanoma completed a survey on beliefs and practices regarding skin cancer prevention and detection.


Sixty-two percent of participants had carefully examined their skin, 54% routinely used sunscreen, and 27% had received a skin cancer examination by a dermatologist during the past year; 47% had never received a dermatologist examination. Multivariate analysis found modifiable positive predictors for skin self-examination and dermatologist examinations, including having a clinician with whom to talk about melanoma and believing in the importance of regular skin examinations by a physician. Significant modifiable negative predictors included enjoyment of being tanned, not being sure what to look for when examining moles, and feeling uncomfortable having others look at their skin.


Skin self-examination rates among these high-risk siblings are markedly higher than in population-based studies. However, many siblings were not screened for skin cancer by a dermatologist despite having strong risk profiles, being nearly fully insured, and being under care of primary care physicians. Improvements in communication between physicians and high-risk families and changes in office systems to assess family history of melanoma could increase screening rates for the estimated 1 million siblings of patients with melanoma.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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