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March 1991

A Community Study of Delay in Presenting With Signs of Melanoma to Medical Practitioners

Author Affiliations

From the Faculty of Medicine, University of Newcastle (New South Wales, Australia).

Arch Dermatol. 1991;127(3):356-361. doi:10.1001/archderm.1991.01680030076010

• In the absence of more effective treatment for advanced tumors, early diagnosis and treatment of localized tumors is the most effective way of reducing the burden of illness associated with melanoma. This study examined the following factors: prevalence of signs of melanoma (a mole changing in size, shape, appearance, or color, itching or tingling, bleeding or weeping, becoming raised) in 1344 individuals in a randomly selected sample of 1075 households; the length of delay in seeking medical advice; the factors associated with either going to a medical practitioner or not going/delaying; and the actions of the medical practitioners when first presented with these signs. The results indicate that a large proportion of the sample (11.9%, n = 156) had observed signs of melanoma in the previous 12 months. Of the sample reporting signs that had first appeared in the previous 5 years, only 32% sought medical advice about the signs within the recommended period. Of the sample either not seeking advice at all or delaying, 49% reported that they thought the sign "wasn't serious/would clear up." Furthermore, 30% of the sample either did not know or underrated the importance of early detection and treatment of lesions. These results indicate that there is a deficit in the knowledge of the general public about the signs of melanoma, the severity of the disease, and the possible risks associated with delay.

(Arch Dermatol. 1991;127:356-361)

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