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Better Survival if Melanoma is Detected by Dermatologist

Tumors tend to be found at earlier stage and when they are smaller

MONDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Melanomas that are found by dermatologists tend to be at an earlier stage and smaller than those found by non-dermatologists, and these patients have better survival, according to a study of Medicare patients in the April issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Suephy C. Chen, M.D., from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues retrospectively examined outcomes in 2,020 melanoma patients. Seventy-three percent were diagnosed by a dermatologist, and 27 percent were diagnosed by non-dermatologists.

The researchers found that melanomas detected by dermatologists were earlier stage and thinner. Patients whose tumors were detected by dermatologists had improved survival (5-year survival, 74 percent vs. 69 percent), lower cancer-related mortality (13 percent vs. 21 percent), and lower overall mortality (29 percent vs. 37 percent).

"Earlier stage melanoma and improved survival are associated with detection by a dermatologist rather than by a non-dermatologist," Chen and colleagues concluded. "Increasing access to dermatologists, particularly for older patients, may represent one approach to improving melanoma-related health outcomes."

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