Publication Abstract

Authors: Roetzheim RG, Lee JH, Ferrante JM, Gonzalez EC, Chen R, Fisher KJ, Love-Jackson K, McCarthy EP

Title: The influence of dermatologist and primary care physician visits on melanoma outcomes among Medicare beneficiaries.

Journal: J Am Board Fam Med 26(6):637-47

Date: 2013 Nov-Dec

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Ambulatory visits to dermatologists and primary care physicians (PCPs) may improve melanoma outcomes through early detection. We sought to measure the effect of dermatologist and PCP visits on melanoma stage at diagnosis and mortality. METHODS: We used data from the database linking Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) and Medicare data (1994 to 2005) to examine patterns of dermatologist and PCP ambulatory visits before diagnosis for 18,884 Medicare beneficiaries with invasive melanoma or unknown stage at diagnosis. Visits were assessed during the 2-year time interval before the month of diagnosis. We examined whether dermatologist and PCP visits were associated with diagnosis of thinner melanomas (defined as local stage tumors having Breslow thickness <1 mm) and lower melanoma mortality. RESULTS: Medicare beneficiaries visiting both a dermatologist and PCP before diagnosis had greater odds of diagnosis of a thin melanoma (adjusted odds ratio, 1.26; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-1.41) and lower melanoma mortality (adjusted hazard ratio 0.66, 95% confidence interval, 0.57-0.76) compared with those without such visits. The mortality findings were attenuated once stage at diagnosis was adjusted for in the multivariable model. CONCLUSION: Improved melanoma outcomes among Medicare beneficiaries may depend on adequate access and use of dermatologist and PCP services.