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10-02-2011 | Article

Melanoma removal by primary care physicians may be feasible


Free abstract

MedWire News: Research suggests that the removal of melanomas by primary care physicians could be a viable option, with their ability to perform the procedure similar to that of specialist dermatologists.

Currently, medical advisory bodies recommend that primary care physicians and general practitioners refer any patients with suspicious skin lesions to specialist dermatologists so that diagnosis and removal of melanoma can be made by someone with specific experience.

But the research team, led by Peter Murchie, from the University of Aberdeen in the UK, suggest that allowing the removal of melanomas in the primary care setting could mean that these skin tumors are diagnosed more quickly.

The team analyzed 1263 melanoma pathology reports sent to the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary between 1991 and 2007. Of these, 262 (21%) came from primary care and 1001 from secondary care.

Complete excision of melanomas is important for a correct diagnosis and to prevent recurrence and improve survival, and the results showed that the ability of primary care physicians to remove melanomas was similar to that of specialists, with a complete excision rate of 72.5% and 69.7%, respectively.

"The study found no evidence to support the belief that melanomas are more likely to be excised inadequately in primary care," the researchers conclude in the British Journal of General Practice.

They call for the current guidelines to be reconsidered in light of the fact that diagnosis of melanoma might be achieved more quickly when the initial biopsy is performed in primary care.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lucy Piper