Increase in the sensitivity for melanoma diagnosis by primary care physicians using skin surface microscopy

Br J Dermatol. 2000 Nov;143(5):1016-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2000.03836.x.


Background: Skin surface microscopy (oil epiluminescence microscopy, dermoscopy, dermatoscopy) has been shown to increase the diagnostic accuracy of melanoma. However, all studies to date have been in an expert setting.

Objectives: To determine whether primary care physicians (PCP) (general practitioners) could improve their melanoma diagnosis using surface microscopy after a short education intervention.

Methods: Seventy-four practising PCP completed a pretest of 50 melanomas and 50 atypical non-melanoma pigmented skin lesions (PSL) containing matched clinical and surface microscopy photographs. PCP were randomized between a surface microscopy education intervention or control group, followed by an identical post-test.

Results: Following training there was a significant improvement in the post-test vs. pretest in both clinical melanoma diagnosis (62.7% vs. 54.6%; P = 0.007) and surface microscopy melanoma diagnosis (75.9% vs. 57.8%; P = 0.000007). No difference was found in the control group between the post-test vs. pretest clinical melanoma diagnosis (53.7% vs. 50.6%; P = 0.21) or the surface microscopy melanoma diagnosis (54.8% vs. 52.9%; P = 0.56). Following training there was a significant improvement in the diagnosis of melanoma using surface microscopy vs. clinical diagnosis (75.9% vs. 62.7%; P = 0.000007), which was absent in the control group (54.8% vs. 53.7%; P = 0.59). No significant difference was found in clinical vs. surface microscopy post-test results for non-melanoma PSL in either the intervention group or control group. Improvement in the sensitivity for the diagnosis of melanoma with surface microscopy was seen without a decrease in specificity; this indicated that the effect should occur without increasing the number of needless excisions.

Conclusions: All PCP in countries where melanoma leads to significant mortality should be trained in skin surface microscopy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Dermatology / education
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Family Practice / education
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Microscopy
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*