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Med J Aust. 1991 Mar 4;154(5):338-43.

Screening for melanoma: a community survey of prevalence and predictors.

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Faculty of Medicine, University of Newcastle, NSW.


Australian cancer councils recommend the practice of regular self screening of the skin or screening by another person for signs of melanoma and other skin cancers. They also recommend that medical practitioners screen adult patients annually. This study examined the prevalence and predictors of self screening (or screening by another person) and screening by a general practitioner in 1344 individuals from randomly selected households. The results indicated that 48% of the sample either regularly checked their own skin or had it checked by another person (such as a spouse), and 17% had been screened by a general practitioner in the preceding 12 months. Overall, this indicates that 50% of the sample had their skin adequately screened as recommended. Individuals were less likely to have been screened if they were male; of lower occupational status; unemployed or too ill to work; and had only a primary school education. Those who had only basic medical insurance were also less likely to have been screened. A higher prevalence of screening was reported in individuals at greater risk of developing melanoma, in those who perceived themselves as more susceptible to developing melanoma, and in those who believed that there were greater benefits associated with the early detection of melanoma. The implications of these results for the development of effective public health education programmes, and for increasing the role of general practitioners in the education and screening of the public, are discussed.

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