We Are Sunshine

Melanoma Being Over-diagnosed: Study

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

2010-06-16 Melanoma diagnosis copyMelanoma is among a group of cancers that are being over-diagnosed by a medical industry whose early detection and screening programs are finding smaller masses that wouldn’t have been detected a generation ago and which most likely will not ever turn into cancers, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The paper was authored by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch and Dr. William C. Black of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Vermont.

“For melanoma, the rate of diagnosis has almost tripled (from 7.9 per 100,000 to 21.5 per 100,000), (but) the rate of death is generally stable (little change in the past 15 years),” the authors wrote. “Although there may be an element of a true increase in clinically significant melanoma, these data suggest that most of the increase in diagnosis reflects over-diagnosis.”

The paper comes on the heels of a paper from British dermatologists in 2009 showing the same thing — that there is not an actual increase in melanoma incidence, but rather an increase in diagnosis.

“Because almost all the new diagnoses are localized (or in situ) melanomas and because their appearance almost perfectly tracks the increase in population skin biopsy rates, over-diagnosis is likely the predominant explanation for the rise,” Welch and Black wrote.