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Dermatol Clin. 1991 Oct;9(4):657-67.

Changing trends in melanoma treatment and the expanding role of the dermatologist.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology and Otolaryngology, University of Rochester, New York.


As the incidence of melanoma continues to increase, so does the role of the dermatologist as both medical and surgical oncologist for these patients, especially those with stage I disease. The dermatologist holds a key role in all phases of care, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. The dermatologist is best trained to complete a full and thorough skin examination and is best able to recognize a melanoma at its earliest stages of radial growth. In large part because of advances in dermatology, the dysplastic nevus syndrome has been identified as an important marker and precursor lesion for melanoma; the dermatologist has the best knowledge base for the recognition and management of both sporadic and familial dysplastic nevi. Dermatologists also have the unique opportunity (by virtue of their patient population concerned with skin problems) to prevent melanoma through patient education concerning sun protection, self-examinations, and the ABCDs of melanoma recognition. The dermatologist is well trained to obtain an appropriate, full-thickness skin biopsy specimen and is also knowledgeable to interpret the pathologist's report, understanding the significance of the various histologic prognostic indices. Because of the changing trends in excisional margin size and fewer recommendations for ELND, the dermatologist is becoming more active in the surgical management of melanoma patients. In the MDMC, the dermatologist was clearly recognized as a capable surgeon to perform the wide local excisions for stage I patients. Almost one half of the patients seen (49%) were surgically treated in the department of dermatology. Of group I patients, 78% were treated by dermatologists. The dermatologist as surgeon should be capable of performing a wide local excision to the level of deep subcutaneous tissue or muscle fascia with an appropriate primary layered closure, local flap, or graft. Our experience confirms that the majority of patients present with local disease and a thin Breslow depth and thus can be skillfully treated in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia by a dermatologic surgeon. In follow-up, the dermatologist should provide continuity of care and should be knowledgeable in appropriate interval examinations and tests. The dermatologist is thoroughly skilled at the cutaneous examination and has the knowledge base to perform a careful and competent lymph node examination. As primary medical oncologist to these patients, the dermatologist needs to recognize stage II and stage III disease and be able to comprehensively discuss with the patient the options for treatment and how they affect their prognosis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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