Survival from cutaneous melanoma is mainly dependent on the thickness of the lesion at diagnosis. Skin screening may increase detection of thin lesions and hence improve survival. Within a community-based randomized controlled trial of a population screening program for melanoma in Queensland, Australia, 9 communities were randomly assigned to the 3-year intervention and 9 communities to the control group. Skin screening prevalence was monitored by cross-sectional surveys at baseline, 1, 2 and 3 years into the intervention and 2 years later. At baseline, prevalence of whole-body clinical skin examination was similar in intervention and control communities. In intervention communities, the prevalence of whole-body skin examinations increased to 29.2%, an absolute difference of 18% from baseline, with a peak of 34.8% 2 years after baseline, and began to decline again at the end of the intervention period. The largest increases were seen in men and women 50 years. Uptake of screening did not differ according to melanoma risk factors; however, the decline in screening was less in participants who reported a number of melanoma risk factors. The prevalence of skin self-examination remained stable during the intervention program. No changes were observed in the control communities. These results indicate that the intervention program significantly increased the prevalence of whole-body clinical skin examinations in intervention communities. Once the intervention program ceased, and particularly after skin clinics ceased, levels of skin screening began to decline. The provision of specialized skin screening clinics may be needed to achieve sufficient screening rates should population based screening for skin cancer be considered.
International Journal of Cancer / Vol. 118, no. 4, pp.1010-1016