In a study comparing detection of melanoma by dermatologists and non-dermatologists, researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine, Emory Rollins School of Public Health, and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that there is a significant difference in stage and survival in patients who were diagnosed by a dermatologist. The study was published in the April issue of the Archives of Dermatology.
In an effort to increase survival rates of patients with melanoma, researchers analyzed data from the SEER-Medicare database, comprised of 2020 subjects who had been diagnosed with melanoma. The purpose of the study was to determine whether dermatologists who are trained in skin cancer detection are more adept at finding melanoma at earlier stages than non-dermatologists.
"Survival rates are dependent on the stage melanoma is found," says Suephy Chen, MD, MS, Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at Emory. "The earlier it is caught, the easier the melanoma is to treat and the more likely the patient will outlive the melanoma".
According to the article, melanoma poses a significant health threat to the U.S. population afflicting approximately 1 in 52 men and 1 in 77 women. This is a huge jump from the risk of 1 in 1500 persons in the 1930's.
"Knowing that dermatologists are more likely to discover melanoma at an early stage is an important public health discovery," says Dr. Chen. "This study provides us with information that can help promote regular check-ups with a dermatologist to insure the disease is caught early and successfully treated."
The study was funded by a Mentored Patient Oriented Career Development Award from the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Chen was also supported by an American Skin Association David Carter Martin Career Development Award.