Original Article ran in Practice Update / Research · June 07, 2018 – Jeffrey F. Scott, MD Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology TAKE-HOME MESSAGE In this survey study, the authors investigated how well patients in general dermatology practices understand the implications and etiology of skin cancer. In total, 273 adults participated in the […]
Original Article ran in Practice Update / Research· June 07, 2018 – Jeffrey F. Scott, MD
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
In this survey study, the authors investigated how well patients in general dermatology practices understand the implications and etiology of skin cancer. In total, 273 adults participated in the study, with 30.8% reporting a prior history of skin cancer. Just over 25% of participants believed that melanoma was the most common skin cancer. Fewer than 50% of adults correctly understood that melanoma can sometimes develop from abnormal moles (29.3%), that melanoma may present as a large irregular mole (46.9%), and that melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer (41.4%) with the highest risk of metastasis (34.1%). In multivariate analyses, adults with greater knowledge of skin cancer were older than age 40, had a college- or graduate-level education, and worked in the medical field.
Patients in general dermatology practices have relatively poor knowledge of the warning signs and seriousness of melanoma. Educational programs should be preferentially considered for less-educated adults younger than 40 years of age, and who are not associated with the medical field.
– Jeffrey F. Scott, MD
More than 5 million skin cancers are treated in the United States each year. Government agencies have highlighted the provider’s role in educating patients about skin cancer. In response, efforts have focused predominantly on behavioral changes—in particular, sun safe practices—rather than education. These behavioral programs include sun safety campaigns, installation of public sunscreen dispensers, and tanning bed restrictions. While the literature shows benefit from these behavior-driven efforts, improvements in behavior have not translated into improvements in knowledge. Knowledge gaps have been documented in minority populations, schools, outdoor workers, and various international communities. Data from the transplant population demonstrates that skin cancer education can effectively change preventive behavior: those who were educated about skin cancer were more likely to practice sun safe behaviors and demonstrate decreased sun-related hyperpigmentation, signifying that improvements in education are related to improvements in behavior. A focus on patient education thus can bolster behavioral changes and may reduce the incidence of skin cancer. If patients do not understand the implications and etiology of skin cancer, they may not protect themselves from the sun or appropriately present to a health care professional.