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Is it Time for a Full-Body Skin Exam?

January 15, 2012

A study in the Archives of Dermatology surveyed family physicians, internists, and dermatologists on their practice of performing full body skin exams. As expected to those of us on the front lines, time was the more commonly listed constraint. But I want to mention a few other issues.

First, this study assumed a full-body scan is helpful, when there is no good evidence to support this. It is not recognized as a proven preventive service by AHRQ. There is evidence that if you take a bunch of light-skin Europeans and put them in a sunburned country and periodically screen them for skin cancer, the melanoma death rate decreases a little (Australia). This doesn’t mean it helps in other environments.

The second problem is that the typical GIMeC symbiosis between ologists and the media existed in the newspaper article I first saw the study mentioned in. The first sentence said “…exams are essential for catching the disease.” The reporter never seemed to question the ologist assumption that paying a dermatologist – or any other doctor — for this service improved health.

The inherent conflict of interest of dermatologists claiming they deserve more business never seemed to cross the reporter’s mind.

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One Response to Is it Time for a Full-Body Skin Exam?

  1. Tracie Updike MD on January 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Let’s face it. It is all about the money and scaring patients to go through with a full body scan for skin cancers. All of my patients want referred to the Ologist and they keep going back for more unnecessary visits and testing. It is all about the money!

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