Association between risk factors and detection of cutaneous melanoma in the setting of a population-based skin cancer screening

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Early detection is considered to improve the prognosis of cutaneous melanoma. The value of population-based screening for melanoma, however, is still controversial. The aim of this study was to evaluate the predictive power of established risk factors in the setting of a population-based screening and to provide empirical evidence for potential risk stratifications. We reanalyzed data (including age, sex, risk factors, and screening results) of 354 635 participants in the Skin Cancer Research to provide Evidence for Effectiveness of Screening in Northern Germany (SCREEN)project conducted in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein (2003–2004). In multivariable analysis, atypical nevi [odds ratio (OR): 17.4; 95% confidence interval (CI): 14.4–20.1], personal history of melanoma (OR: 5.3; 95% CI: 3.6–7.6), and multiple (≥40) common nevi (OR: 1.3; 95% CI: 1.1–1.6) were associated with an increased risk of melanoma detection. Family history and congenital nevi were not significantly associated with melanoma detection in the SCREEN. The effects of several risk-adapted screening strategies were evaluated. Hypothesizing a screening of individuals aged more than or equal to 35 years, irrespective of risk factors (age approach), the number needed to screen is 559 (95% CI: 514–612), whereas a screening of adults (aged ≥20) with at least one risk factor (risk approach) leads to a number needed to screen of 178 (95% CI: 163–196). Converted into one screen-detected melanoma, the number of missed melanomas is 0.15 (95% CI: 0.12–0.18) with the age approach and 0.22 (95% CI: 0.19–0.26) with the risk approach. The results indicate that focusing on individuals at high risk for melanoma may improve the cost-effectiveness and the benefit-to-harm balance of melanoma screening programs.

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