Blog | Friday, August 24, 2012

QD: News Every Day--education, reminders may improve skin cancer self-assessment

Computer-assisted education along with reminders and other instruction may help improve patients' performance of skin self-exams, a new study reports.

Researchers randomly assigned 132 adults from dermatology clinics to intervention and control groups. Patients in the intervention group took a computer-assisted tutorial on melanoma and skin self-exams, received a hands-on skin self-exam tutorial, got telecommunication reminders to perform skin self-exams every month, and were given a brochure about detection of melanoma. Patients in the control group received the brochure only.

The study lasted three months, and the main outcome measure was patients' self-reported frequency of skin self-exams. The results were published online this week by Archives of Dermatology.

At the three-month follow-up survey, intervention-group patients were more likely to have performed skin self-exams compared with control-group patients. They were also more likely to report feeling confident about identifying melanoma during a skin self-exam. Both differences were statistically significant.

The authors acknowledged that their study was not blinded and that selection bias may have been present, among other limitations. However, they concluded that interventions of the type they tested can make skin self-exams more common and can increase patients' confidence in identifying suspicious lesions. They called for future research to determine whether other, similar types of interventions could also help change patients' behavior.