A recent study examined the impact of a nationwide skin cancer screening program started in Germany in 2008 following a pilot study conducted between 2003 and 2004. The program may be the first ever nationwide program of its sort implemented.

Researchers, based at the University Hospital of Essen, Essen, Germany, the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), and Boston University, reviewed skin cancer mortality rates.

Rated items classified under the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems [ICD-10] as code C76-80 (malignant neoplasms of ill-defined, secondary, and unspecified sites) and C43 (skin melanoma) were included.


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The investigators employed a bias analysis to help determine skin melanoma deaths that may not have been categorized as C43 because of error.

Although initial reports 5 years after the pilot study reported a reduction in melanoma mortality, the number of deaths related to items classified as ICD-10 code C76-C80 increased, which could be due to incorrect classification at time of diagnosis.

Five years after the screening program went into effect, an increase was observed in nationwide skin melanoma mortality (an approximate rate change of +0.4 per 100,000 person-years for men and +0.1 per 100,000 person-years for women, standardized for age via European Standard population).

Although Germany’s nationwide screening program does not appear to have lowered skin cancer mortality, the study authors feel more research is required before a decision regarding termination of the program can be made. Results of this study were published in the journal Cancer.

REFERENCE

1. Stang A, Jöckel KH. Does skin cancer screening save lives? A detailed analysis of mortality time trends in Schleswig-Holstein and Germany [published online ahead of print October 19, 2015]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.29755.