What features do patients notice that help to distinguish between benign pigmented lesions and melanomas?: the ABCD(E) rule versus the seven-point checklist

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The ABCD(E) rule and the seven-point checklist are diagnostic aids that have proven to be useful in the hands of physicians; however, little is known of their value to patients with respect to aiding self-detection. The objective of this study was to investigate features that patients notice when identifying melanomas and to explore how well these features correspond to the ABCD(E) rule and the seven-point checklist. A retrospective, modified, case–control study involving patient interviews was performed. All interviews were conducted through the private consulting rooms of a Melbourne dermatologist (JWK) and a Newcastle plastic surgeon (CH) prior to the result of pathology being known to the patients and the interviewers. Sixty-seven patients with benign pigmented skin lesions and 46 patients with melanomas were included. Using a logistic regression model, the change in size/new lesion and change in colour (major criteria, seven-point checklist) were most useful in differentiating between melanomas and benign pigmented lesions in the hands of patients [odds ratio (OR), 4.74; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.85–12.19; P=0.001; OR, 4.27; 95% CI, 1.62–11.26; P=0.003, respectively). The ABCD(E) rule failed to discriminate between melanoma and other benign pigmented skin lesions. It can be concluded that, of the patients’ observations, changes in size or colour were most important in distinguishing between benign pigmented lesions and melanomas. Such features therefore deserve emphasis in public education campaigns. Medical professionals should also remember to seek a history of change in assessing pigmented skin lesions.

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