Skin Cancer: General Practitioner examinations are not sufficient for identifying
Purchasing Bottom Line
GP examinations for skin cancer have high specificity but low sensitivity, so are good for reliably referring patients with positive results, but should not be the sole means of identification.
Whited JD, Hall RP, Simel DL, Horner RD. Primary care clinicians' performance for detecting actinic keratoses and skin cancer. Arch Intern Med 1997;157:985-990.
In patients with skin lesions, what is the accuracy of the general practitioner's diagnosis of skin cancer? Should Primary Care Groups employ alternative means to routine examination for detecting skin cancer?
Best Evidence search using "skin cancer" and "diagnosis." For MEDLINE search, use skin cancer AND diagnosis AND exp sensitivity and sensitivity.
Blinded comparison of GP versus dermatologist examinations for skin cancer, single actinic keratoses and multiple actinic keratoses in 190 men recruited from dermatology and general medicine outpatient clinics. The reference standard was dermatologist opinion. Each patient was independently examined by a GP and a dermatologist. Interobserver agreement of patients and of lesions was also measured.
(skin cancer, according to dermatologist exam)
|Diagnostic Test Result
a + b
c + d
a + c
b + d
Sensitivity = a/(a+c)
Sensitivity = 35/61
Sensitivity = 57%
Specificity = d/(b+d)
Specificity = 114/129
Specificity = 88%
Likelihood Ratio for a positive test result = LR+
Likelihood Ratio for a positive test result = sens/(1-spec)
Likelihood Ratio for a positive test result = 57%/12%
Likelihood Ratio for a positive test result = 4.9 (rounding off at the final stage)
Likelihood Ratio for a negative test result = LR-
Likelihood Ratio for a negative test result = (1-sens)/spec
Likelihood Ratio for a negative test result = 43%/88%
Likelihood Ratio for a negative test result = 0.48 (rounding off at the final stage)
Positive Predictive Value = a/(a+b)
Positive Predictive Value = 35/50
Positive Predictive Value = 70%
Negative Predictive Value = d/(c+d)
Negative Predictive Value = 114/140
Negative Predictive Value = 81%
Pre-test Probability (prevalence) = (a+c)/(a+b+c+d)
Pre-test Probability (prevalence) = 61/190
Pre-test Probability (prevalence) = 32%
Pre-test-odds = prevalence/(1-prevalence)
Pre-test-odds = 32%/68%
Pre-test-odds = 0.47
Post-test odds = Pre-test odds x Likelihood Ratio for a positive result
Post-test odds = 0.47x4.9
Post-test odds = 2.3
Post-test Probability = Post-test odds/(Post-test odds + 1)
Post-test Probability = 2.3/3.3
Post-test Probability = 0.70
The paper compares GP with dermatologist exams for diagnosing skin cancer. It does not compare GPs or dermatologists reliably against the gold standard of biopsy.
Anna Donald and Sam Vincent March 1999.