Community Perceptions of Specific Skin Features of Possible Melanoma

Backgrourtd Melanoma can be curable if detected early. One component of detecting melanoma is an awareness of the important features of the disease. It is currently not clear which features the community view as indicative of melanoma.Objective To investigate which features of the skin members of an urban community believe may indicate skin cancer.Methods A total of 925 adults (71 per cent response rate) in Brisbane, Australia returned a completed postal questionnaire. Respondents were asked questions about their perceptions of features of skin lesions and other issues relating to skin self-examination (SSE) practices.Results The greatest proportion of respondents thought that change in the lesion, sensory features and whether a lesion was different to usual moles were most likely to indicate skin cancer. Fewer respondents thought that static features or new moles were indicative of skin cancer. The lowest proportion of respondents thought that the presence of hair was likely to indicate skin cancer.Conclusion Although change in a lesion is an important feature when looking for early melanoma, current recommendations of looking for change may need to be revised if low levels of skin self-examination continue in the community. Encouraging people to be more familiar with their skin, rather than looking for specific skin features, may improve people's ability to recognise change when it occurs, and recognise which lesions can be considered normal for their skin. Health Education Journal 63(2). June 2004  
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