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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Jan;48(1):34-41.

The first 15 years of the American Academy of Dermatology skin cancer screening programs: 1985-1999.

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



In response to the precipitous increase of melanoma, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has coupled melanoma/skin cancer education with free skin cancer screening programs throughout the United States since 1985. The purpose of this analysis is to investigate the risk factors, access to dermatologic services, and screening results of participants in AAD-sponsored programs during the first 15 years that this service was available to the US public.


Before screening, participants completed a standardized AAD screening form. Screening forms were counted in the AAD central office and recorded in annual summaries. Forms were sent for keypunching and returned to the AAD on a computer disk annually. In 1999, disks were sent to Boston University and a master file was created.


Computerized records were available for 819,019 screening forms and 639,835 individuals. In all, 65% of screenees had at least 1 risk factor and 33% had at least 2 risk factors. Of screenees, 33% reported a changing mole and 37% had skin type I or II. Among all screenees, nearly 80% did not have a regular dermatologist, 78% reported no prior AAD skin cancer screening, 60% had never had their skin checked by any doctor, and 51% would not have seen a doctor for skin cancer without the free screening. Nearly 30% of screenees had a presumptive diagnosis of skin cancer or a precursor lesion. Melanomas confirmed by postscreening biopsy were more likely than those in population-based registries to be less than 1.50 mm in thickness.


AAD national screening and educational programs have expanded to all 50 states, provided educational messages about sun protection and early detection to millions, and served many US citizens with an above average risk for skin cancer and suboptimal access to dermatologic care. Screenees had a disturbingly high point prevalence of malignant and premalignant skin lesions. Sustained commitment by the AAD leadership and membership to the screening program is critical to reducing the morbidity and mortality of skin cancer.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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