The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of 50 dermatologists have just published in Melanoma Management a call for new guidelines for melanoma screenings. They recommend yearly full-body scans by primary care physicians for a number of specific groups of people they deem high risk, some more obvious than others.
Recommended for these full-body scans were people 35 to 75 years old who have a family history of melanoma or previous history of skin cancer; those with light skin, blonde or red hair, or lots of freckles; those who have a history of indoor tanning, sunburns, or severely damaged skin; and those with 40 or more birthmarks or 2 or more atypical birthmarks or unusual moles.
A full-body scan is quick and painless and done right in the office of your primary care physician. They will simply visually examine all of your skin, either with the naked eye or a magnification device, assessing shape, color, size and borders of moles to determine if any appear suspicious. Observing them annually allows the physician to see if any change has occurred in the year.
For those more clear-cut high-risk patients such as the ones with family history or unusual moles, it is possible that their insurance might cover the full body scan, but it is not guaranteed that everyone will find that this service is covered by their insurance or even offered by their primary care physician. However, these dermatologists believe that this caution is necessary with the extreme danger of melanoma as the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Melanoma is expected to kill 9,730 people in 2017 according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. The five-year survival rate is only 18 percent when the disease is caught in its later stages after it has already metastasizes to distant organs. An estimated 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017, and for those that are caught early the survival rate is about 98 percent. Early detection makes a dramatic difference.
Another group some professionals say could benefit from this kind of melanoma prevention is men who have taken erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors. Researchers have found that these drugs increase risk of melanoma as much as 84 percent and that melanoma “begins to grow more vigorously” with the assistance of these drugs. Men who have taken these drugs have been advised to be aware of the risk and to use caution, and physicians have been advised that they might want to screen for melanoma before prescribing.