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Barriers to Skin Cancer Screening Revealed

Patients' embarrassment, doctors' scheduling often preclude skin cancer screening

January 19, 2011

Though skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States, relatively few patients—even if they are at higher risk for the disease—receive skin cancer screening that involves full-body exams.

Almost 1,700 family practitioners, internists and dermatologists were surveyed to determine how often they perform full-body skin cancer screening. Over 81% of dermatologists reported performing the screening exam on a routine basis, but less than 60% of family practitioners and just 56% of internists routinely performed the exams.

The doctors cited three main reasons for not performing more full-body skin cancer screening: time constraints, other competing illnesses and patient embarrassment. Doctors were more likely to perform the exams when they had high-risk patients (for example, white men over the age of 50), had more skin cancer training, or had patients who requested the exam.

Skin cancer can be treated more effectively when it is detected early. Though skin cancer screening guidelines have never been established, the American Cancer Society recommends that people examine their own skin about once a month, and take precautions to protect their skin from overexposure to the sun. Siblings of people with melanoma should be screened regularly, according to the study authors.

Article Continues Below

Skin Self-Exam

Stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room and carefully examine your skin. Use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see; a spouse can help you inspect hard-to-see areas like your back or the back of your neck.

Closely inspect freckles, moles, blemishes and other skin marks for abnormalities, particularly the A,B,C, Ds of melanoma detection. If you notice any of the signs, see a dermatologist right away.

Sources: American Cancer Society; Susan A. Oliveria, Maureen K. Heneghan, Linda F. Cushman, Eloise A. Ughetta, and Allan C. Halpern. "Skin Cancer Screening by Dermatologists, Family Practitioners, and Internists: Barriers and Facilitating Factors." Archives of Dermatology. 2011;147(1):39-44.

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Original Date of Publication: 19 Jan 2011
Reviewed by: the Editorial Staff at
Last Reviewed: 19 Jan 2011
Last Modified:19 Jan 2011

Skin Cancer, Barriers to Skin Cancer Screening Revealed reprinted with permission from
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