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The management of skin malignancy: to what extent should we rely on clinical diagnosis?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sara Brown, Dr Clifford Lawrence


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Background Cutaneous malignancy forms a major part of the dermatologist's workload. Clinical diagnosis is an important factor in facilitating the urgent excision of squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and malignant melanomas. Objectives To identify the numbers and types of malignant skin tumours managed in an NHS teaching hospital and to assess the diagnostic accuracy. Methods Data were collected on every histologically proven malignant skin lesion over a 6-month period. Results One thousand one hundred and ninety-five malignant skin tumours were identified: 78% were basal cell carcinomas, 14% were SCC, 6% were malignant melanomas and the remaining 2% included Merkel cell tumours, malignant adnexal tumours and lentigo maligna. Eighty-one per cent of the tumours were managed by dermatologists. The correct clinical diagnosis had been made by the secondary care clinician in 84% of cases but an incorrect clinical diagnosis was given in 32% of SCC. Of the 1195 tumours, 916 (77%) had a primary excision and 92% (843 of 916) of these were completely excised. Conclusions The majority of skin malignancies (968 of 1195, 81%) were managed by dermatologists. Where primary excision was attempted, this was complete in 91% (767 of 916) of cases. The correct clinical diagnosis was made in 84% of all tumours, but 32% of SCC were not correctly diagnosed prior to surgery.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brown SJ, Lawrence CM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Dermatology

Year: 2006

Volume: 155

Issue: 1

Pages: 100-103

ISSN (print): 0007-0963

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2133

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2006.07307.x


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