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Health Educ Res. 1997 Sep;12(3):375-84.

Effects of photographs and written descriptors on melanoma detection.

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  • 1Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, Carlton South, Australia.


Two studies are reported on the effects of photographic and written information on performance in an experimental melanoma detection task. Subjects were shown slides of four types of skin lesions, including melanoma, and were asked what they would do if the lesion was on their skin. Four response options were provided from seeing a doctor immediately to doing nothing. In Experiment 1, no clear differences in performance were found as a function of prior instruction using four, eight or 16 photographs of each of the four lesion types. In Experiment 2, the effects of written and photographic instructional material were compared. The written material contained descriptions of each lesion type and details of the ABCD criteria for melanoma detection. Eight photographs were provided for each lesion type. Photographic information resulted in superior performance (P < 0.001) for seborrhoeic keratoses and a combination of both types of information was superior (P < 0.05) for melanoma. The two kinds of instructional material produced different effects, suggesting that a brochure offering a combination of photographs and written information is likely to be most useful in helping members of the public identify early melanoma as suspicious.

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