A recent clinical trial proved that skin-check partners of melanoma patients can successfully assist with skin self-examinations by recognizing new melanomas and increasing early detection of the cancer.
The study, “Early Detection of New Melanomas by Patients With Melanoma and Their Partners Using a Structured Skin Self-examination Skills Training Intervention: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” is published online in JAMA Dermatology.
Almost 724,000 survivors of melanoma in the United States are estimated to have four first-degree relatives each, which mathematically results in 2.8 million people at increased risk of developing melanoma.
Under current practice guidelines, followup skin examinations for patients with early melanoma usually decrease three years after treatment to annual examinations by a dermatologist for five years. After five years, skin examination may be performed annually as indicated for the rest of the patient’s life. Meanwhile, skin self-examination (SSE) assisted by a partner (relative, spouse, friend or other) could improve survival.
Dr. June Robinson, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and colleagues, conducted a randomized clinical trial (NCT01432860), with 24-month follow-up assessments in patients with stage 0 to IIB melanoma and their skin-check partners.
The study enrolled 494 patient and partner duos who were randomly assigned to receive usual care or skills training intervention for SSE at a doctor’s office or through a workbook or electronic tablet.
Skills to recognize melanoma by alterations in the color, diameter and border of moles and other means, were reinforced every four months by a dermatologist.
The first outcome showed more frequent skin self examinations. Secondly, new or recurrent melanoma by the patient and partner duo, or by physician, were found. The third outcome was more unscheduled physician appointments concerning lesions.
Of the 494 melanoma patients who participated in the clinical trial, 66 developed new melanomas. Patient-partner pairs in intervention arm of the trial were able to identify 43 of the new melanomas while none of the patient-partner pairs in the control arm of the trial identified new melanomas.
The study, according to a news release, concluded that future research will determine if a skills training program delivered via the internet, without reinforcement by the dermatologist, would show that SSE is reliable for patients at risk for another melanoma.