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Prev Med Rep. 2018 Apr 17;10:310-316. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.04.011. eCollection 2018 Jun.

Psychosocial consequences of skin cancer screening.

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Center for Health Equity Research, Brown School of Public Health, Providence, RI, United States.
Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown School of Public Health, Providence, RI, United States.
Department of Epidemiology, Brown School of Public Health, Providence, RI, United States.
Department of Dermatology, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI, United States.
Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States.
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, United States.
Department of Dermatology, Veterans Medical Center, Providence, RI, United States.


Screening for melanoma may save lives, but may also cause patient distress. One key reason that preventative visual skin examinations for skin cancer are not currently recommended is the inadequate available evidence to assess potential harm to psychosocial wellbeing. We investigated potential psychological harms and benefits of skin examinations by conducting telephone surveys in 2015 of 187 screened participants; all were ≥35 years old. Participants had their skin examined by practitioners who had completed INFORMED, a validated web-based training for detection of skin cancers, particularly melanoma. Participants underwent the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Psychological Consequences of Screening (PCQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scale, and the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12). Analyses were conducted in 2017. Of the entire study sample, 40% were thoroughly screened as determined by patient-reported level of undress and skin areas examined. Participants who were thoroughly screened: did not differ on negative psychosocial measures; scored higher on measures of positive psychosocial wellbeing (PCQ); and were more motivated to conduct monthly self-examinations and seek annual clinician skin examinations, compared to other participants (p < 0.05). Importantly, thoroughly screened patients were more likely to report skin prevention practices (skin self-examinations to identify a concerning lesion, practitioner provided skin exam), recommend skin examinations to peers, and feel satisfied with their skin cancer education than less thoroughly screened individuals (p < 0.01). Our results suggest that visual screening for skin cancer does not worsen patient psychosocial wellbeing and may be associated with improved skin cancer-related practices and attitudes.


Cancer; Cancer prevention; Melanoma; Screening

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