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Keywords:

  • dermoscopy;
  • general practitioners;
  • melanoma

Summary

Background  Studies have shown the benign to malignant ratio of excised pigmented skin lesions is suboptimal in primary care.

Objectives  To assess the impact of dermoscopy and short-term sequential digital dermoscopy imaging (SDDI) on the management of suspicious pigmented skin lesions by primary care physicians.

Methods  A total of 63 primary care physicians were trained in the use of dermoscopy and SDDI (interventions) and then recruited pigmented lesions requiring biopsy or referral in routine care by naked eye examination. They were then given a dermatoscope and the option of a SDDI instrument, and change of diagnosis and management was assessed.

Results  Following the use of the interventions on 374 lesions a total of 163 lesions (43·6%) were excised or referred, representing a reduction of 56·4%. Of the 323 lesions confirmed to be benign, 118 (36·5%) were excised or referred, leading to a reduction of 63·5% (< 0·0005) in those requiring excision or referral. The baseline naked eye examination benign to melanoma ratio was 9·5 : 1 which decreased to 3·5 : 1 after the diagnostic interventions (< 0·0005). Of the 42 malignant lesions included in the study (34 melanoma, six pigmented basal cell carcinoma and two Bowen disease) only one in situ melanoma was incorrectly managed (patient to return if changes occur) resulting in the correct management of 97·6% and 97·1% of malignant pigmented lesions and melanoma, respectively.

Conclusions  In a primary care setting the combination of dermoscopy and short-term SDDI reduces the excision or referral of benign pigmented lesions by more than half while nearly doubling the sensitivity for the diagnosis of melanoma.