MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Laura K. Ferris MD, PhD
Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Director of Clinical Trials, UPMC Department of Dermatology
University of Pittsburgh
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Dermatology is one of the greatest utilizers of physician extenders, including physician assistants (PAs) in medicine. The scope of practice of PAs has also expanded over time from a role in assisting the dermatologist to taking a more independent role and many PAs now do skin cancer screening examinations and make independent decisions about which lesions are suspicious for skin cancer and need to be biopsied.
Our main findings were that, overall, in comparison to board-certified dermatologists, PAs were more likely to perform biopsies of benign lesions. For every melanoma that they found, PAs biopsied 39 benign lesions whereas dermatologists biopsied 25.
In addition, PAs were less likely than dermatologists to diagnose melanoma in situ, the earliest and most curable, but also hardest to identify and diagnose, form of melanoma. However, PAs had a similar rate of diagnosing the more clinically-obvious forms of skin cancer, including invasive melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.