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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Feb;66(2):212-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2010.12.039. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Total body skin examination for skin cancer screening in patients with focused symptoms.

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Department of Dermatology, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy.



The value of total body skin examination (TBSE) for skin cancer screening is controversial.


We sought to determine whether TBSE could be helpful in patients with focused skin symptoms who would not otherwise have undergone TBSE.


In a prospective, multicenter, cross-sectional study consecutive adult patients were recruited during a period of 18 months. Physicians first inspected problem areas and uncovered areas and then performed TBSE. Equivocal lesions detected in both steps were excised or biopsied. Primary outcomes were the absolute and relative risks of missing skin cancer and the number of patients needed to examine to detect melanoma or another malignancy. A secondary outcome was the proportion of false-positive results obtained by TBSE.


We examined 14,381 patients and detected 40 (0.3%) patients with melanoma and 299 (2.1%) with at least one nonmelanoma skin cancer by TBSE. In 195 (1.3%) patients equivocal lesions found by TBSE turned out to be benign. We calculated that 47 patients need to be examined by TBSE to find one skin malignancy and 400 patients to detect one melanoma. The risk of missing one malignancy if not performing TBSE was 2.17% (95% confidence interval 1.25-3.74). Factors significantly increasing the chance to find a skin cancer were age, male gender, previous nonmelanoma skin cancer, fair skin type, skin tumor as the reason for consultation, and presence of an equivocal lesion on problem/uncovered areas.


The impact of TBSE on skin cancer mortality was not evaluated.


TBSE improves skin cancer detection in patients with focused skin symptoms and shows a low rate of false-positive results.


[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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