Fewer Melanoma Deaths in Counties With More Dermatologists

MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Counties with more dermatologists have lower rates of deaths from melanoma, a new study finds.

Researchers compared the number of dermatologists and melanoma deaths in 2,472 U.S. counties between January 2002 and December 2006.

The analysis revealed that having 0.001 to one dermatologist per 100,000 people in a county was associated with a 35 percent lower rate of melanoma deaths. However, having a higher density of dermatologists was not associated with a further decrease in melanoma death rates.

Among the other findings:

  • Counties where there were hospitals with oncology departments had slightly lower melanoma death rates.
  • Metropolitan counties had about 30 percent lower melanoma death rates than rural counties.
  • Melanoma death rates appeared to be higher in counties with a higher incidence of melanoma, larger white populations and larger numbers of people with health insurance.

"Within a given county, a greater dermatologist density is associated with lower melanoma mortality rates compared with counties that lacked a dermatologist," Savina Aneja, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and colleagues said in a university news release.

"Given the nature of this field, it is unclear whether dermatologist density affects prevention, diagnosis, treatment or some combination of the aforementioned. Further studies are needed using staging information to highlight whether dermatologist density is associated with earlier diagnosis of melanoma or improved treatment," the authors concluded.

The study was published in the February issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Feb. 17, 2012