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Tumori. 2003 Jan-Feb;89(1):1-5.

A two-year regional program for the early detection of cutaneous melanoma.

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Division of Medical Oncology C, Oncology Prevention, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, Aviano, Italy.



A regional program for the early diagnosis of cutaneous melanoma involving general practitioners was effective in 1997-1998 in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in Northern Italy. The aim of the 2-year program was to evaluate the role of a skin examination performed by general practitioners in people older than 18 years without known skin lesions and spontaneously presenting to their offices for any reason, with referral of suspect cases to a pre-identified regional dermatology or plastic surgery institution.


In the preparatory phase (late 1995 and 1996), all general practitioners operating in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region (n = 1,038) were asked to participate in the program. Support from all regional dermatology, pathology and plastic surgery institutions was obtained. Operational procedures for the management of referred people were defined, and educational meetings directed to general practitioners interested in the program were held. Skin examinations by general practitioners started at the end of 1996 and took place during 1997 and 1998. Subsequently, information was obtained from participating general practitioners and from pathology institutions about the number and thickness of diagnosed melanomas, as well as the number of diagnosed skin carcinomas and dysplastic nevi. In addition, the thickness distribution of all melanomas diagnosed in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region before and during the program was obtained.


A total of 153 general practitioners participated in the program, but only 74 were active and assessable. A total of 11,040 skin examinations was performed by these 74 general practitioners (median, 75 per general practitioner). In all, 820 people (7.4%) were referred for dermatological evaluation (median, 8 per general practitioner). Among these 820 people, at least 38 melanomas (4.6% of referred cases) were detected (18 < or = 1.5 mm, 11 > 1.5 mm thick, unknown in 9). The dermatological examinations/diagnosed melanomas ratio was 21. In addition, 94 skin carcinomas and 50 dysplastic nevi were detected. At the regional level, the percentage of thin melanomas rose from 65.3% in 1995-96 to 72.2% in 1997-98 (P = 0.04), whereas the number of thick melanomas declined.


In our study, only a few general practitioners chose, in the absence of incentives, to participate in the study. However, the yield of melanomas, most of which were thin, was considerably high and the workload was acceptable. This compares favorably to experiences where dermatologists were involved directly without a filter work by general practitioners.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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