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Thorough Exams a Must for Those at High Risk of Skin Cancer
Date:1/17/2011

MONDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Patients at high risk for melanoma benefit from a follow-up program that can detect the deadly skin cancer at an early stage, new research finds, while a second study notes that embarrassment prevents some people from having a doctor examine their skin for suspicious lesions.

Both studies appear in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

People at high risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, include those with fair skin, blond or red hair, blue eyes, freckles and/or a family history of the disease, as well as those who have been exposed to artificial UV-A radiation or who have suffered severe sunburns, especially during childhood.

"Patients who are at high risk, who fit this profile, should be routinely screened [for skin cancer] annually along with other surveillance measures for colon cancer, mammograms, etc.," advised one dermatologist, Dr. Michele Green of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She was not involved in the new research.

The first study, conducted in Spain, included 40 melanoma patients who were in a special follow-up program designed for high-risk individuals, as well as 161 melanoma patients who were simply referred to another clinician in the same hospital. All the melanoma diagnoses were made using dermoscopy, a noninvasive microscopic evaluation of a skin lesion.

The researchers found that only 12 percent of melanomas diagnosed in the follow-up program fulfilled all four criteria for melanoma detection: asymmetry, uneven borders, colors, and differential dermoscopic structures, compared with almost 64 percent of melanomas diagnosed in the doctor-referred group.

In addition, 70 percent of melanomas diagnosed in the follow-up group had not spread beyond the initial site, compared with about 28 percent of those in the referred group. Tumors also tended to be thinner in the follow-up group.

In the follow-up group, melanom
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