A study published in the May Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests risk factors that help gauge a  patient’s melanoma risk.

Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center, and his colleagues, analyzed the Academy’s screening data from 2001 to 2005 to identify factors associated with melanoma detection in patients where melanoma was suspected.

The study, “Risk Factors for Presumptive Melanoma in Skin Cancer Screening: American Academy of Dermatology National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Screening Program Experience 2001-2005,” discovered five factors that increase the likelihood of suspected melanomas. Rigel used the acronym “HARMM” to identify the factors. They are history of previous melanoma, age over 50, regular dermatologist absent, mole changing, and male gender.

Data from 365,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 100 were included in the skin-cancer screening program. All individuals who participated in the screenings were required to complete a one-page form with basic demographic and melanoma risk-related questions before being examined by a dermatologist. Of those screened, melanomas were suspected upon initial clinical diagnosis in 0.9% of patients.

Although women made up the majority (62%) of people attending screenings, they only accounted for 54% of the total suspected melanomas identified. However, men over 50 comprised 23%of the screening population, yet accounted for 32% of the total suspected melanomas identified.

The data for the suspected melanoma diagnoses were categorized into subgroups based on the number of risk factors identified—from zero to  five. When the data were re-analyzed to evaluate the association between the number of risk factors present and suspected melanoma, 98% of the study population had at least one risk factor, 75% had two or more risk factors, 33% had three or more risk factors, and 6% had four or five risk factors. The data demonstrated that having additional risk factors corresponded to a significantly increased likelihood of suspected melanoma.

Read about using energy-based devices for treating skin precancers in the May PSP.

[Newswise, May 7, 2007]