Population-based screening for melanoma performed by primary care providers does not cause substantial harm with respect to skin surgeries and dermatology visits, a study published in the journal Cancer has shown.1

Although population-based screening to detect melanoma early is a promising strategy for reducing melanoma-related mortality, there are limited data surrounding the benefits and risks of this approach. Therefore, researchers sought to evaluate the rate of skin surgeries and dermatology visits after screening to determine the potential physical, psychosocial, and financial consequences.

For the study, targeted primary care physicians at the University of Pittsburgh were trained using the Internet Course for Melanoma Early Detection (INFORMED) program to detect early melanoma.

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Administrative data from 3 groups of patients age 35 years and older who had received an annual physical examination by physicians were analyzed. Those groups included: patients of physicians from the group with the highest percentage of INFORMED-trained providers (group A1); patients of physicians from the group with a lower percentage of INFORMED-trained providers (group A2); and patients of physicians without INFORMED training (group B).

Results showed that INFORMED-trained primary care providers screened 1572 of 16,472 patients in groups A1 or A2 and none of the 56,261 patients in group B.

Researchers found that melanoma diagnoses increased by 79% (95% CI, 15-138) in group A1, while no increase was observed in the other groups. The study further demonstrated no substantial increase in skin surgeries or dermatology visits for any of the 3 groups.

The findings ultimately suggest that population-based screening should be considered for more widespread use.


1. Weinstock MA, Ferris LK, Saul MI, et al. Downstream consequences of melanoma screening in a community practice setting: First results. Cancer. 2016 Jul 8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30177. [Epub ahead of print]