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Can Fam Physician. 2012 Jul;58(7):740-5, e372-8.

Dermoscopy for melanoma detection in family practice.

[Article in English, French]

Author information

  • 1Omega Medical Associates, 2 Lansing Square, Suite 304, Toronto, ON, Canada.



To assess the diagnostic accuracy and clinical utility of dermoscopy for melanoma detection in family practice.


Ovid MEDLINE (1946 to June 2011), EMBASE, PubMed, and Cochrane databases were searched using the following terms: dermoscopy, dermatoscopy, epiluminescence microscopy, family practice, general practice, primary health care, melanoma, skin neoplasms, and pigmented nevus. To be included, studies had to be primary research articles with family physicians as the subjects and dermoscopy training and use as the intervention. Four papers met all inclusion criteria and provided level I evidence according to the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care definition.


Among family physicians, dermoscopy has higher sensitivity for melanoma detection than naked-eye examination with generally no decrease in specificity. Dermoscopy also helps to increase family physicians' confidence in their preliminary diagnosis of lesions. When using dermoscopy, compared with naked-eye examination, there is a higher likelihood that a lesion assessed as being malignant is in fact malignant and that a lesion assessed as being benign is in fact benign.


Dermoscopy has been shown to be a useful and fairly inexpensive tool for melanoma detection in family practice. This technique can increase family physicians' confidence in their referral accuracy to dermatologists and can assist in decreasing unnecessary biopsies. Dermoscopy might be especially useful in examining patients at high risk of melanoma, as the current Canadian clinical practice guideline recommends yearly screening in these individuals.

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