During the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, melanoma diagnoses were mostly unchanged but dermatologic and surgical follow-up decreased compared with the same period in 2019, according to study findings published in Dermatologic Therapy.
Italian researchers retrospectively compared dermatologic and surgical activity conducted in their melanoma skin unit from February 23, 2020, to May 21, 2020, with data from the same period in 2019.
The analysis included dermato-oncologic or surgical visits and surgical procedures such as surgical excisions (SE), wide excisions, sentinel lymph node biopsies (SLNB), lymph node dissections (LND), electrochemotherapy (ECT), and hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion (HILP).
The number of melanomas diagnosed in this period in 2020 was 64, compared with 66 in the same period in 2019 (-3%). Clinical activity decreased with the exception of SEs, which increased by 31.7%, with 636 SEs occurring in 2020 and 483 occurring in 2019. Dermatologic follow-ups decreased from 2196 in 2019 to 1533 in 2020 (-30.2%), and surgical follow-ups decreased from 1073 in 2019 to 675 in 2020 (-37%).
SLNBs decreased from 31 in 2019 to 22 in 2020 (-29%), LNDs decreased from 14 in 2019 to 5 (-64%) in 2020, and the number of ECTs was unchanged (2 in both periods). In addition, HILP decreased from 3 in 2019 to 0 in 2020.
“Postponing consultation and follow-up may cause undetected or late detected skin cancers with higher morbidity and mortality,” the investigators commented. “In our opinion, the patients’ feeling of safety must be strengthened to avoid diagnostic delay.”
Filoni A, Del Fiore P, Cappellesso R, et al. Management of melanoma patients during COVID-19 pandemic in an Italian skin unit. Dermatol Ther. Published online February 22, 2021. doi:10.1111/dth.14908