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Improving outcomes in patients with melanoma: strategies to ensure an early diagnosis

Authors Voss R, Woods T, Cromwell K, Nelson K, Cormier J

Received 29 May 2015

Accepted for publication 16 July 2015

Published 6 November 2015 Volume 2015:6 Pages 229—242


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Robert Howland

Rachel K Voss,1 Tessa N Woods,1 Kate D Cromwell,1 Kelly C Nelson,2 Janice N Cormier1

1Department of Surgical Oncology, 2Department of Dermatology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

Abstract: Patients with thin, low-risk melanomas have an excellent long-term prognosis and higher quality of life than those who are diagnosed at later stages. From an economic standpoint, treatment of early stage melanoma consumes a fraction of the health care resources needed to treat advanced disease. Consequently, early diagnosis of melanoma is in the best interest of patients, payers, and health care systems. This review describes strategies to ensure that patients receive an early diagnosis through interventions ranging from better utilization of primary care clinics, to in vivo diagnostic technologies, to new “apps” available in the market. Strategies for screening those at high risk due to age, male sex, skin type, nevi, genetic mutations, or family history are discussed. Despite progress in identifying those at high risk for melanoma, there remains a lack of general consensus worldwide for best screening practices. Strategies to ensure early diagnosis of recurrent disease in those with a prior melanoma diagnosis are also reviewed. Variations in recurrence surveillance practices by type of provider and country are featured, with evidence demonstrating that various imaging studies, including ultrasound, computed tomography, positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging, provide only minimal gains in life expectancy, even for those with more advanced (stage III) disease. Because the majority of melanomas are attributable to ultraviolet radiation in the form of sunlight, primary prevention strategies, including sunscreen use and behavioral interventions, are reviewed. Recent international government regulation of tanning beds is described, as well as issues surrounding the continued use artificial ultraviolet sources among youth. Health care stakeholder strategies to minimize UV exposure are summarized. The recommendations encompass both specific behaviors and broad intervention targets (eg, individuals, social spheres, organizations, celebrities, governments).

Keywords: melanoma, screening, early diagnosis, high-risk melanoma, recurrence, prevention

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