Skin cancer discovery during total body skin examinations

Angela Jiang, Itisha S. Jefferson*, S. Kayo Robinson, Dana Griffin, William Adams, Jodi Speiser, Laura Winterfield, Anthony Peterson, Eleanor Tung-Hahn, Kristin Lee, David Surprenant, Anne Coakley, Rebecca Tung, Murad Alam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Patients presenting with a site-specific skin complaint may receive a total body skin examination (TBSE) or a more focused examination. A TBSE may be time-consuming but can potentially detect unsuspected or early stage skin cancers. The purpose of this study was to assess the detection of skin cancers associated with dermatologist-initiated TBSE performed immediately after a focused skin examination on the same patients. Methods: The dermatology records of patients with biopsy-proven melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) during a 2-year period were reviewed. Generalized linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate the odds of a lesion being identified by a dermatologist (rather than the patient or the patient's primary health care provider). Results: A total 1563 biopsy-proven cutaneous malignancies were found on 1010 patients. Of these, 797 cancers (51%) were first identified by a dermatologist on TBSE and 764 (48.9%) by the patient or the referring provider. Among tumors first identified by dermatologists (n = 797), 553 (69%) were BCCs, 220 (28%) were SCCs, and 24 (3%) were melanomas. The mean Breslow depth was 0.53 mm (standard deviation: 0.31 mm) for melanomas found on TBSE versus 1.04 mm (standard deviation: 1.68 mm) if identified by patients or referring providers. BCCs were more likely to be identified by a dermatologist during a TBSE (n = 553 [56%] vs. n = 434 [44%]; odds ratio: 1.79; p < .001). Tumors ultimately diagnosed as SCCs were more often identified by patients or patients’ primary care providers (n = 302 [58%]; odds ratio: 0.56; p < .001). However, 220 otherwise undetected SCCs were found during dermatologist-performed TBSE. Conclusion: Dermatologist-performed TBSEs identified numerous cutaneous malignancies that might otherwise have remained undiagnosed. Early detection of melanoma or nonmelanoma skin cancer by TBSEs may spare patients significant morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-414
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Women's Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Skin
  • cancer
  • total body examination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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