Patients detect most skin cancers, but doctors find them earlier
February 16, 1999
CHICAGO (CNN) -- Patients find more than half of all melanomas, the most dangerous type of skin cancer -- but doctors tend to find the cancers at earlier stages, a new study of the disease concludes.
Doctors diagnosed more than 41,000 cases of melanoma last year in the United States. More than 7,300 people died from the disease, which can be triggered by excessive sun exposure.
The study, by doctors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, is published in this week's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It surveyed 102 people with newly detected melanomas over two years, through June 1997.
"Physician detection was associated with a 400 percent increase in the likelihood of discovering thinner melanomas," the study found.
The patients -- 47 men and 55 women -- found 55 percent of the melanomas themselves. But doctors were more likely to find the disease at an earlier stage, when the skin cancers were less developed. And patients whose doctor discovered the cancer were likely to have the growth removed within a month, compared to about three months for patients who found the cancer on their own.
Patients were more likely to find melanomas in visible places like the arms, legs, head or chest. About 70 percent of the cases on those parts of the body were discovered by patients, while less than a quarter of patients found melanomas on their backs or buttocks.
"Increased awareness by all physicians may result in greater detection of early melanomas," the authors concluded.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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