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Protecting Family Members by Properly Communicating Melanoma Risk [Study]

Within the United States in 2011 alone, an estimated 70,230 patients were diagnosed with invasive melanoma. With numbers at this level, the most effective professional-to-patient communication practices must be taken into consideration.  In order to best protect family-members, dermatologists and derm PAs must communicate effectively during diagnosis and use it as a time of education for both patients and their families.  


It is not always clear what derm professionals around the U.S. are communicating to patients, and with 8,790 melanoma-related deaths in 2011, researchers determined that a study on melanoma risk communication practices was more than warranted.  The study chosen was one utilizing a self-reported descriptive survey.   Many survey questioned focused on communication to the family members of melanoma patients. 

Alarmingly, some statistics estimate that 5% to 12% of patients with melanoma have a family history of the disease.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises an initial mole screening for the first-degree family members of patients will melanoma due to increased melanoma risk as family members.  Other survey questions addressed communication barriers such as lack of guidelines, written materials, or time constraints with patients.


Surveys were sent to 974 dermatologists in the US and 406 of the surveys were completed.  


At a Glance: The Stats of this Study 

1. Communicated the risk of melanoma to patients’ first degree relatives: Between 82.3% and 84.2% of dermatologists

2. Advised patients with children over 18 about the risk potential of the eldest children: 80% of dermatologists

3. Advised patients with children under 18 about sun protection: 80% of dermatologists

4. Routinely offered to screen patients’ first-degree family members: only 45.1-47.3% of dermatologists

5. Took notes and reminders for communication of risk to patients’ family members: 19.7% of dermatologists

6. Had no major communication barriers with patients: 76.1%

7. Time constraints acted as barrier to communicate with patients: 7%

8. Other barriers (such as lack of material and standardized guidelines): 12%


Investigators were encouraged by the amount of dermatologists that reported to consistently communicate to patients’ first-degree family members.  And still, researchers felt that more screenings are yet needed for first-degree family members of melanoma patients.

The study reports that targeting the most-at-risk relatives of patients has proven successful and this practice of screening and enhanced communication could reduce the burden of the disease.


Source: Archives of Dermatology

[image by: Zitona]


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