"The back is the place that should be examined by a doctor and by the person himself," Geller said. "We found that one of the major reasons for doctors finding thinner melanomas was that they were more carefully examining the back. If you do it yourself and see something unusual, go to a doctor and say, 'Give me a referral to a dermatologist.' "
Dermatologists are trying to publicize that message because "of cancers in general in the United States, the only one in which the mortality rate is not dropping is melanoma," Geller said.
This is one appropriate occasion for a man to turn his back on his wife, Robinson said. "Most men in Western society depend on the women in their lives to mediate medical care -- nagging, scolding, reminding," she said. "And the places where melanoma occur more readily are hard for the man to see -- the back, the top of a bald head, behind the ears. With women, melanoma is more likely to occur on the lower leg."
When the inspection is made, "they should be asking the spouse to check for moles with border irregularity, color variation over the surface and with greater than six millimeter diameter," Robinson said. "You don't have to run to a doctor immediately. They grow at their own rate of speed. If you think you see suspicious features, come back in a month, and if it changes, go to the doctor."
One reason why doctors found the melanomas earlier was that they looked for them, said Dr. Steven Wang, director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, N.J.
"It's very important for middle-aged and older men to see a physician for a total body examination," Wang said. "We don't have any effective cure for late-stage melanoma. Only early diagnosis followed by complete removal can improve the prognosis."
The study "highlighted what we suspected," Wang said. "This population, middle-aged and ol
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