Excising basal cell carcinomas: comparing the performance of general practitioners, hospital skin specialists and other hospital specialists

Clin Exp Dermatol. 2008 Aug;33(5):565-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2008.02710.x. Epub 2008 Mar 18.


Background: General practitioners (GPs) are not encouraged to excise basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). Despite this, as many of 10% of BCCs may be excised by GPs. GPs may be able to have a greater role in the diagnosis and management of BCC, but much needs to be learnt before this can be advocated.

Objective: To compare the practice of GPs, skin specialists (dermatologists and plastic surgeons) and other hospital specialists in excising BCCs.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of all BCCs excised in the Grampian region between 1 January and 31 December 2005 was carried out In total, 1087 reports were rated for source, quality of clinical information provided and extent of excision.

Results: GPs perform significantly less well than skin specialists when diagnosing and excising BCCs, but appear equal in diagnostic skill and better at excision than other hospital specialists. Non-specialized GPs appear to perform as well as GPs with special interest (GPwSI) in adequately excising BCCs. In 18.7% of all cases, the information supplied to the pathologist with the biopsy sample was inadequate to draw a conclusion.

Conclusions: GPs compare unfavourably with skin specialists in diagnosing and excising BCCs. The performance of nonspecialized GPs does not appear to differ markedly from that of GPwSI. There is considerable room to optimize current GP performance, particularly with lesions of the head and neck, and it may be that novel approaches to GP training are required to achieve this. Structured request forms may improve the quality of clinical information provided when skin biopsies are submitted for pathological examination.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / surgery*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Dermatology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Specialization