This study examined the frequency and correlates of skin examination behaviors in an international sample of individuals at varying risk of developing melanoma.
A cross-sectional, web-based survey design was implemented.
Data were collected from the general population over a 20-month period on behalf of GenoMEL, the Melanoma Genetics Consortium (www.genomel.org).
8,178 adults from Northern (32%), Central (33%), and Southern (14%) Europe, Australia (13%), and the USA (8%).
Self-reported frequency of skin self-examination (SSE) and clinical skin examination (CSE).
After adjusting for age and gender, frequency of skin examination was higher in both Australia (ORSSE=1.80, 99% Confidence Interval: 1.49, 2.18; OR CSE=2.68, 99% CI: 2.23, 3.23) and the USA (OR SSE=2.28, 99% CI: 1.76, 2.94; OR CSE=3.39, 99% CI: 2.60, 4.18) compared to the three European regions combined. Within Europe, participants from Southern Europe reported higher rates of SSE compared to Northern Europe (OR SSE=1.61, 99% CI: 1.31, 1.97), and frequency of CSE was higher in both Central (OR CSE=1.47, 99% CI: 1.22, 1.78) and Southern Europe (OR CSE=3.46, 99% CI: 2.78, 4.31) compared to Northern Europe. Skin examination behavior also varied according to melanoma history; participants with no history of melanoma reported the lowest levels of skin examination, while participants with a previous melanoma diagnosis reported the highest levels. After adjusting for region, and taking into account the role of age, gender, skin type and mole count, engagement in SSE and CSE was associated with a range of psychosocial factors, including: perceived risk of developing melanoma; perceived benefits of, and barriers to, skin examination; perceived confidence in one’s ability to engage in screening; and social norms. In addition, among those with no history of melanoma, higher cancer-related worry was associated with greater frequency of SSE.
Given the strong association between psychosocial factors and skin examination behaviors, particularly amongst people with no history of melanoma, we recommend that greater attempts be made to integrate psycho-education into the fabric of public health initiatives and clinical care, with clinicians, researchers, and advocacy groups playing a key role in guiding individuals to appropriate tools and resources.