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Clin Exp Dermatol. 2010 Jan;35(1):63-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2009.03507.x. Epub 2009 Sep 23.

A retrospective study comparing the accuracy of prehistology diagnosis and surgical excision of malignant melanomas by general practitioners and hospital specialists.

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Department of Derrmatology, Whittington Hospital, London, UK.


A retrospective study was carried out to compare the overall standard of surgical excision of malignant melanomas (MMs) between general practitioners (GPs) and hospital specialists before and after the introduction of the UK melanoma guidelines between 1989 and 2006. In total, 213 melanoma excision reports were examined and surgical excision margins recorded. The results showed a significant difference in the rate of adequate surgical excision margins (at all levels of Breslow thickness) between GPs and hospital specialists, with hospital specialists excising melanomas with safe surgical excision margins at a significantly higher rate compared with GPs. Since the introduction of the guidelines in 2002, GPs showed a significant improvement in the completeness of melanoma excision but remained poor at prehistology diagnosis and in particular at taking adequate excision margins. Implementation of the guidelines has not produced significant improvements in adequacy of excision margins in both primary and secondary care. The results show that hospital specialists maintained a high standard of prehistological diagnosis and completeness of excision throughout the time of the study, performing at a significantly higher standard compared with GPs. Our conclusions concur with the UK melanoma guidelines and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines, which suggest that lesions suspicious for melanoma should be urgently referred to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for surgical excision and should not be surgically excised in primary care, particularly if lesions have a Breslow thickness > 2 mm. We suggest that the new guidelines need to be more aggressively implemented in primary care and guidance introduced to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, with better training provided for GPs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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