Background: Dermoscopy is a noninvasive method of evaluation of the colors and microstructures of the epidermis, dermo-epidermal junction, and papillary dermis not visible to the naked eye. These structures are correlated with histologic features and used to assess whether a lesion is benign or malignant, further indicating whether or not the lesion should be biopsied.
Objective: To obtain a better understanding of how many dermatologists are utilizing dermoscopy and their reasons for doing or not doing so.
Method: A survey was conducted focusing on the prevalence of the use of dermoscopy by US dermatologists, the method by which they learned dermoscopy, how often they use or do not use it, and whether or not they feel it is effective. The survey was distributed to dermatologists attending a dermoscopy seminar at the American Academy of Dermatology's (AAD's) Summer Academy Meeting in 2007, as well as to dermatologists who expressed an interest in dermoscopy. E-mail addresses were also obtained from dermatologists who attended the AAD's Summer Academy Meeting, and subsequent surveys were e-mailed to them as a secondary means of obtaining the data. The survey was conducted online through a website: http://www.surveymonkey.com. One hundred and five dermatologists started the survey and ninety-seven finished it, a completion percentage of 92.4%.
Results: Of the 105 dermatologists who began the survey, the majority (63; 60%) had training or experience in dermoscopy, and 42 (40%) did not. Of the 63 individuals who responded positively to having training or experience in dermoscopy, the majority (41; 69.5%) learned dermoscopy through attendance of a seminar; reading a book and spending time with an experienced dermatologist were the second most popular methods of learning dermoscopy. The frequency of dermoscopy was evaluated, and it was found that 44 (42.7%) dermatologists used dermoscopy more than once daily, but 44 (42.7%) dermatologists reported never having used dermoscopy. Further information was obtained with regard to whether or not published algorithms were used by dermatologists to diagnose pigmented lesions. Pattern analysis was the most common algorithm used by 51 (89.5%) dermatologists questioned. The dermatologists were also questioned as to why they thought dermoscopy was effective or ineffective. The majority of dermatologists (32; 61.5%) believed that it was effective because it reduced patient anxiety. Helping to detect melanoma early was the second most popular reason for believing dermoscopy to be effective. Twenty-three (62.2%) dermatologists thought dermoscopy was ineffective as it was not more useful for detecting melanoma earlier than traditional methods. Eleven (29.7%) dermatologists said that they thought that dermoscopy took too long, which made it ineffective. To build on this, an additional question was asked: how long does dermoscopy take? The overwhelming response of dermatologists (52; 82.5%) was that dermoscopy took less than 1 min to evaluate one lesion.
Conclusion: Dermoscopy is a widely used tool for the diagnosis of pigmented skin lesions. The use of dermoscopy is increasing in popularity amongst dermatologists, making it necessary to better understand dermoscopy and to analyse why physicians use it or do not use it. The survey indicated that the majority of physicians used dermoscopy in order to reduce patient anxiety and to detect melanoma early. The main reason why dermatologists found dermoscopy to be ineffective was that they felt that it was not useful in detecting melanoma earlier than traditional methods; 35% of dermatologists surveyed believed that dermoscopy required excessive training. These results imply that current training methods need to be modified. Training is limited to large dermatology centers and is not being transferred to general centers, which would allow it to be more accessible to a larger group of dermatologists in training. There is also a need to make the learning of dermoscopy easier and to establish a universal method of teaching. Overall, there is a need for improvement in the education of dermoscopy, ranging from training to information on the basics of dermoscopy. This would include aspects such as how long the average examination takes and dermoscopy's effectiveness compared with alternate methods.