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Partners Can Help with Skin Self-exam

Two are better than one when it comes to performing a skin exam for melanoma and spotting it at the earliest, most treatable stage, a new study shows.

Men and women at high risk of developing melanoma who underwent skin self exam training with their live-in partner were more likely to perform the exams than those who trained solo, Dr. June K. Robinson of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and colleagues found.

People trained to perform a skin self exam also seek treatment at an earlier stage of melanoma and are less likely to die from it, Robinson and her team note in the Archives of Dermatology. They hypothesized that training couples in skin self exams would be even more effective than training individuals because couples may encourage each other to do the exams and help each other another to perform them.

To investigate, Robinson's group randomly assigned 130 people to undergo a 10-minute training on skin self exams alone or with their live-in partner.

Four months after the training, 45 of the 65 people who underwent solo training had not examined their skin, compared with 23 of the 65 who trained with their partner. Of the paired learners, 19 checked their skin at least once and 13 checked it several times, compared with 9 and 4 of the solo learners, respectively.

The men and women who learned in pairs also were more likely to perceive the exams as important and to feel confident in their ability to perform the exams, the researchers found.

The study "affirms the role of partners in health care and extends it to promoting health behaviors," the researchers conclude.

Reuters Health, January 16, 2007

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