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Medical Students Need More Training in Skin Cancer Exams

Over one-quarter never trained to perform exam, study finds

THURSDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- One in four medical students has never been trained to, or performed, a skin cancer examination, and less than one-third feel confident in their own skill at performing such exams, according to a report in the April issue of Archives of Dermatology. Medical students need more consistent training in performing skin cancer examinations, the study authors conclude.

Megan M. Moore, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues surveyed 934 students who were graduating from seven medical schools in the United States in 2002-2003. They evaluated students' observation, training and practice of the skin cancer examinations in addition to their hours spent in dermatology clinic.

Of the 659 students who completed the survey, 23 percent had never observed a skin cancer exam, 26.7 percent had never been trained to perform one, and 43.4 percent had never examined a patient for skin cancer. Only 28.2 percent thought they were skilled in performing a skin cancer exam, but the rate dropped to 19.7 percent when the investigators considered only those without a dermatology elective.

Even brief curricular additions would augment student training for detection of skin cancer, a disease that is estimated to affect over one million people in the United States in 2005, the authors note. "Ensuring that new physicians graduate from medical school with sufficient training, practice opportunities and skill in skin cancer examination screening may positively shape generalist physician clinical practices and decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with this disease," they conclude.

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