While skin cancer can be deadly, it is also highly treatable when detected early. In fact, melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has a five-year survival rate of 95 percent when detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes; conversely, the five-year survival rates for regional and distant stage melanomas are 64 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
The American Academy of Dermatology and its members understand the importance of early detection: For more than 30 years, board-certified dermatologists have been providing free skin cancer screenings in their communities through the AAD's SPOTme® program -; and new research, published today in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, highlights the value of that program.
"In analyzing survey data collected from 1.8 million SPOTme® screening participants over the course of 30 years, we learned that the program serves an unmet need for many of those participants," says study author Hensin Tsao, MD, FAAD, in Boston. "Our findings indicate that SPOTme® screenings have facilitated the detection of suspected skin cancers in high-risk patients, and that many of these lesions may have otherwise gone undetected."
According to the study:
- 72 percent of SPOTme® screening participants in 2009 and 2010 had a high risk for melanoma -; meaning they were older than 65, had a family history of skin cancer, had a history of sunburns, and/or had more than 50 moles or unusual moles.
- 75 percent of those who received a suspected diagnosis of melanoma at a SPOTme® screening in 2009 and 2010 fell into this high-risk category.
- 48 percent of those diagnosed with a suspected melanoma at a SPOTme® screening from 2001-2010 indicated that a doctor had never checked their skin for signs of skin cancer.
- 83 percent of SPOTme® screening participants diagnosed with a suspected melanoma from 1992-2010 indicated they did not have a regular dermatologist.
- 77 percent of SPOTme® screening participants diagnosed with a suspected melanoma from 1992-2010 said they had not been to a previous skin cancer screening.
- 47 percent of screening participants diagnosed with a suspected melanoma from 1992-2010 said they would not have seen a doctor for a skin exam without the SPOTme®
"The results of this study underscore what a valuable service the AAD's SPOTme® program provides," says AAD President Suzanne M. Olbricht, MD, FAAD. "With an estimated one in five Americans diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime, this program serves an important need by offering free screenings to high-risk individuals who may not be able to receive a screening otherwise."
"Since 1985, dermatologists have conducted more than 2.7 million free skin cancer screenings through the SPOTme® program and detected more than 271,000 suspicious lesions, including more than 30,000 suspected melanomas," Dr. Olbricht adds. "Some of these lesions may have gone undetected without the SPOTme® program -; and that means these free screenings may have helped save patients' lives."