A Randomized Trial to Improve Early Detection and Prevention Practices Among Siblings of Melanoma Patients

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Identifying high-risk individuals for melanoma education and risk reduction may be a viable strategy to curb the incidence of melanoma, which has risen precipitously in the past 50 years. The first-degree relatives of melanoma patients represent a risk group who may experience a ‘teachable moment’ for enhanced education and risk reduction.


We report a randomized trial testing an intervention that provided personalized telephone counseling and individually tailored materials to siblings of recently-diagnosed melanoma patients. The purpose of this study was to test whether an intervention could lead to improvements in siblings' skin cancer risk reduction practices. Intervention condition participants received the following: 1) an initial motivational and goal-setting telephone intervention session delivered by the health educator; 2) three sets of computer-generated materials specifically tailored to individual responses from the baseline survey; 3) three telephone counseling sessions with the health educator, timed to follow receipt of the mailed materials; and 4) linkages to free screening programs. Families in the usual care arm received the suggestion from the physician that patients diagnosed with melanoma notify the family members about their diagnosis and encourage the family members to be screened.


494 siblings were recruited to the study and 403 siblings remained in the study through at least 6 months. At 12 months, intervention siblings were more likely to examine all moles, including those on the back (OR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.06–2.91). Compared with baseline, the number of participants in both groups that had received a skin cancer examination more than doubled, with no differences between groups. At 12 months, two-thirds of siblings in both groups reported routine use of sunscreen, but there were no differences in change over baseline between the two groups.


This study is the one of the first, to our knowledge, to address skin cancer risk-reduction strategies in a sample of individuals who have a recent family diagnosis of melanoma. Diagnosis of melanoma in a family member provides an important opportunity to intervene with others in that family. The components of the intervention may provide a useful foundation for future efforts to target the more than half million siblings at risk for melanoma, a lethal but preventable disease.


In this randomized trial for skin cancer risk reduction among melanoma siblings (n = 494), intervention siblings were more likely to examine all moles, including those on the back (OR 1.76; 95% CI, 1.06-2.91).

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