Teaching dermatoscopy of pigmented skin tumours to novices: comparison of analytic vs. heuristic approach

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There are two strategies to approach the dermatoscopic diagnosis of pigmented skin tumours, namely the verbal-based analytic and the more visual-global heuristic method. It is not known if one or the other is more efficient in teaching dermatoscopy.


To compare two teaching methods in short-term training of dermatoscopy to medical students.


Fifty-seven medical students in the last year of the curriculum were given a 1-h lecture of either the heuristic- or the analytic-based teaching of dermatoscopy. Before and after this session, they were shown the same 50 lesions and asked to diagnose them and rate for chance of malignancy. Test lesions consisted of melanomas, basal cell carcinomas, nevi, seborrhoeic keratoses, benign vascular tumours and dermatofibromas. Performance measures were diagnostic accuracy regarding malignancy as measured by the area under the curves of receiver operating curves (range: 0–1), as well as per cent correct diagnoses (range: 0–100%).


Diagnostic accuracy as well as per cent correct diagnoses increased by +0.21 and +32.9% (heuristic teaching) and +0.19 and +35.7% (analytic teaching) respectively (P for all <0.001). Neither for diagnostic accuracy (P = 0.585), nor for per cent correct diagnoses (P = 0.298) was a difference between the two groups.


Short-term training of dermatoscopy to medical students allows significant improvement in diagnostic abilities. Choosing a heuristic or analytic method does not have an influence on this effect in short training using common pigmented skin lesions.

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