Objective To evaluate differences in the initial prognosis of patients with cutaneous melanoma managed by teledermatology (TD) vs other non-TD referral systems.
Design Descriptive and longitudinal study of a store-and-forward TD system aimed at the triage of patients with suspicious pigmented lesions.
Setting In 2003, a store-and-forward TD triage system aimed at the selection of patients with skin growths suggestive of cancer was implemented at a skin cancer clinic. This system has been shown to be accurate and reliable and able to significantly shorten waiting periods for consultation with a dermatologist.
Participants Patients with primary cutaneous melanoma referred to the Melanoma Clinic of the Dermatology Unit, Hospital Universitario Virgen Macarena, Seville, Spain, by TD or non-TD tracks were included in the study.
Main Outcome Measures Decisions on the referral of patients with suspicious skin lesions by store-and-forward TD vs by a conventional referral system. Breslow thickness and tumor stage were recorded in each study group (TD and non-TD) and were compared.
Results Two hundred one patients with primary cutaneous melanoma were enrolled in the study. In total, 33.3% were managed at their primary care center by teleconsultation, whereas 66.7% were managed by a conventional referral system. The mean Breslow thickness was significantly lower among patients in the TD group than among patients in the non-TD group (1.06 vs 1.64 mm, P = .03). The frequency of melanoma with a favorable initial prognosis (tumor stages Tis and T1a) was significantly higher in the TD group (70.1% vs 56.9%, P = .03). The odds ratio of having a cutaneous melanoma with a favorable initial prognosis in the TD group was 1.96 (95% CI, 1.14-3.50; P = .04).
Conclusion Teledermatology as a screening system for cutaneous melanoma has a favorable effect on the initial prognosis of patients with melanoma.