Study Shows Dermatologists Are Best At Removing Skin Cancers

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Patients with a common form of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma stand a better chance of being cured by seeing a dermatologist rather than any other type of physician.

That's the conclusion of a pilot study by the Westwood- Squibb Center for Dermatology Research at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The results of the study were presented today during the annual meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology in Chicago.

The findings come as agencies and state legislatures across the country are considering measures to regulate in-office surgery that could have the practical effect of prohibiting most dermatologists from removing basil cell carcinomas in their offices.

Over a 66-month period, the study found that dermatologists removed all traces of cancer in 93 percent of the tumors they removed. Non-dermatologists removed all traces of cancer in 62 percent of the tumors they removed. The study looked at removal of a total of 1,557 tumors.

This difference can have long-term consequences. Previous research has shown that when basil cell carcinomas are not completely removed the first time, recurrent tumors are harder to eradicate.

Alan Fleischer, M.D., the lead investigator of the study and associate professor of dermatology, said that the results are "frightful." "I assumed going into this that surgeons and dermatologists were equally effective in their cure rates."

Given the findings, the investigators have initiated efforts to conduct a broader study to confirm the results.

The study took into account the relative skill of individual physicians. It also looked to see if other specialties, such as surgeons, disproportionately were assigned the more difficult cases. In both cases, there was no change from the overall results, said Steve Feldman, M.D, a co-investigator and the director of the Westw

Contact: Robert Conn, Mark Wright or Jim Steele
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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