The Duke University dermatology department was shaken when an email went out to its entire staff that said that Duke had recently confirmed that Duke patients could be at risk of melanoma.
The email said that “the risk of cancer has been increasing over the past few years” and that Duke was considering recommending patients with melanoma be monitored for the disease, according to the New York Times.
The department sent out an email to staff on March 2, 2016.
“We are aware of the news report of an increase in melanoma cases among Duke University patients,” the email read.
“As part of our ongoing review of our melanoma screening program, we want to reassure our Duke patients that our clinical staff is fully aware of these reports and that the Duke Cancer Center has made changes to our melanology screening program.”
On Tuesday, the department said that it would have no further comment.
Duke’s new chief of dermatology has apologized to its community and said that the decision was made to improve patient safety, the Times reported.
“It is our understanding that the university is not aware of this case,” Dr. James C. Czucz, the university’s president, told the Times.
Duke will now conduct a full review of the melanoma data and other melanoma-related information in the Duke cancer database.
“This is a deeply troubling situation and a tragedy for our Duke community and our university, but we believe we have made the right decision to improve our screening process for all Duke patients,” Czuccz said.
“Our community has shown great courage and leadership and this is not an isolated incident.
This is a clear indication that our system has failed to keep our patients safe.”
Duke’s announcement came on the heels of a similar incident in 2015, when the university reported that it was testing patients who were diagnosed with melanomas but had not yet developed the cancer themselves.
The university did not specify which patients had melanomas.
Duke said at the time that the study was not about a possible increase in cancer risk but rather to evaluate whether the study would help inform the clinical practice of dermatologists in a timely manner.
“I think the whole point of this study was to find out what is happening in the melanomas population,” Czarnecki said.
A Duke spokesperson told ABC News that the review was ongoing.
“There’s no specific indication that we are in a situation where we’re going to make any changes to the melanoclonal test, and that’s why it’s not a standard thing to do,” Dr of the Duke Center for the Study of Risk Factors in Medicine, John R. Czarnicz, told ABCNews.com.
The news of the 2015 melanoma outbreak came after a similar outbreak in a separate Duke hospital in 2015.
According to a statement from the Duke Health Department, about 4,300 people were diagnosed as having melanoma during that time.
Czyczewski said the University had conducted more than 200 screening tests and had found that the patients in the current study had not developed melanoma, but had been at risk for it.
“The vast majority of the people we have tested in this study have not had melanoma,” Czyzewski said.
Czerkowicz said that while he was not aware if the 2015 case was a new phenomenon, he was surprised by the number of melanomas in Duke’s current study.
“My guess is that it’s a phenomenon that’s been around for quite some time, because we’ve had patients that have been diagnosed with some other type of melanocytic tumors, and we’ve been looking at them and saying, ‘Is there any other cancer that we need to look at?’ “