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August 16, 2000

Early Detection of Melanoma

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Dermatoepidemiology Unit, VA Medical Center Providence, and Department of Dermatology, Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, Providence.


Controversies Section Editor: Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, Executive Deputy Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(7):886-889. doi:10.1001/jama.284.7.886

Melanoma has been increasing in incidence and mortality in recent decades and represents a substantial public health problem. Because melanoma trends tend to follow a cohort pattern, deaths from melanoma occur at a younger age than most other cancers, and melanoma is among the most common sites of cancer in young adults.1 Early detection is feasible because melanoma is usually visible on the skin surface when in a curable stage. Invasive melanomas excised when less than 0.76 mm in Breslow thickness are about 96% curable.2 However, if melanoma is not removed before it reaches 3.6 mm in thickness, case fatality is greater than 70%.2 Death due to melanoma is a tragedy that should not be occurring so frequently.

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