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Melanoma Education Protects Patients' Siblings

Posted: July 12, 2006

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According to the American Cancer Society, roughly 62,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and more than 7,900 will die as a result. The researchers note that almost 630,000 Americans are already living with the cancer.

Such figures underscore the fact that melanoma is a growing problem in the United States. Diagnoses are up by a factor of 15 over the last 50 years, the authors noted. And while other cancer death rates having been dropping in recent decades, melanoma mortality numbers have risen by 28 percent over the last 25 years.

To gauge to what degree screening education might improve early detection among high-risk groups, Geller and his team focused on 494 brothers and sisters of 360 patients diagnosed with melanoma in the Boston vicinity shortly before the two-year study began in 1998.

All the siblings were white and over the age of 18. Almost all had health insurance, and none had a prior melanoma diagnosis.

A little less than half the siblings participated in a one-year screening education program, where they were offered a combination of motivational and counseling support by phone, printed material specifically tailored to each patient, and information on free screening facilities.