The more dermatologists within a given U.S. county, the lower the melanoma mortality rates, a new study suggests.

“Given the nature of this field, it is unclear whether dermatologist density affects prevention, diagnosis, treatment, or some combination of the aforementioned,” the study authors conclude. “Further studies are needed using staging information to highlight whether dermatologist density is associated with earlier diagnosis of melanoma or improved treatment.”

The findings appear in the February issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Savina Aneja of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and colleagues examined data on melanoma mortality rates per 100,000 people between January 2002 and December 2006 from 2,472 U.S. counties. Dermatologist density was categorized as zero, 0.001 to one, 1.001 to two, 2.001 to four, or more than four dermatologists per 100,000 people.

Greater dermatologist density at the county level is associated with lower melanoma mortality rates. Specifically, 0.001 to one dermatologist per 100,000 people was associated with a 35% reduction in melanoma mortality. That said, increasing dermatologist density beyond this level was not associated with further improvement in melanoma mortality rates.

The study also found that a slightly lower melanoma mortality rate was associated with the presence of hospitals with oncology departments. A county’s metropolitan status was associated with a 30.3% reduction in melanoma mortality rates. Overall, melanoma mortality rates were greater in counties with a higher incidence of melanoma, greater non-Hispanic white population, and greater health-insured populations.

Source: Archives of Dermatology