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Melanoma Education Protects Patients' Siblings

Posted: July 12, 2006
Educating the siblings of melanoma patients about their own cancer risk encourages them to undergo regular skin self-examinations that can catch the disease early, researchers report.

"For skin self-examination, we found that an intensive education intervention has a moderately strong effect among siblings of melanoma patients -- with intervention increasing the likelihood they will carefully examine their skin by 82 percent," said study author Alan Geller, a research associate and professor in the department of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Experts estimate that the brothers and sisters of people with melanoma face two to eight times the usual risk for the disease.

However, the Boston study found that melanoma education does not boost the use of sunscreen or visits to the dermatologist in this high-risk group.

Melanoma arises from pigmented cells called melanocytes which can rapidly spread throughout the body. Prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun or a tanning bed elevate the risk for developing the disease.