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Dermatology Online Journal

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Rural melanoma patients in Maryland do not present with more advanced disease than urban patients


Purpose: Rural populations have higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment, higher smoking rates, lower rates of health insurance, higher proportions of elderly individuals, decreased access to health services including dermatology, higher all-cause mortality, and higher mortality from melanoma. Despite these disparities, rural patients have not been adequately studied within the dermatologic literature, particularly at geographic units smaller than the county level. Methods: We used zip codes and Rural Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) codes to conduct a cross-sectional study on the prevalence and severity of melanoma among 31,750 rural versus urban patients treated by the Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology from January, 2016 to June, 2017. Results: Compared to urban patients, rural patients had a 2.6 times higher melanoma prevalence (P<0.0001), travelled much greater distances for treatment (101.8 miles versus 17.7 miles, P<0.0001), and lived in zip codes with median household incomes $18,188 lower ($58,718 versus $76,906; P=0.0040). However, there were no significant differences in Breslow depth or clinical stage between rural and urban patients. Conclusions: Despite having a higher prevalence of melanoma and travelling much greater distances to receive care, rural patients did not present with more advanced disease than their urban counterparts.

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