FULL TEXT (html)
Issue: 2020, March, Volume 14, No 1
issue id: 2020_3_14_1
article id: 2020_3_14_1_7

Original Research

Surgical Evaluation of Common Benign Skin Lesions in Primary Care

Surgical Evaluation of Common Benign Skin Lesions in Primary Care


Birinci Basamakta Sık Karşılaşılan Benign Cilt Lezyonlarının Cerrahi Değerlendirilmesi


Sebahattin Destek1, Vahit Onur Gul*2




Objective: Skin tumours are common tumors and they are mostly benign. Benign skin lesions (BSLs) may be a sign of a syndrome or of a systemic malignant state. Sometimes they can transform into malignant types. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the prevalence and the clinico-pathological characteristics of a large series of BSLs which were excised in our clinic. Methods:The patients with skin lesions who underwent a total excisional biopsy in the general surgery clinic between the years 2012 and 2016 were reviewed. Malignant skin lesions were excluded from the study. The BSLs were classified according to the Pathology and Genetics of Skin Tumours of the World Health Organization Classification of Tumours. Results: A total of 551 patients with BCL were included in the study. Of the patients, 241 (43.7%) were female and 310 (56.7%) were male. The age range was between 2 and 98 years and the mean age was 39.7. The most common benign skin lesions (n = 184, 33.3%) were appendageal tumors and this finding was statistically significant (p = 0.001). The most common appendageal tumor type (n = 75, 13.6%) was verruca vulgaris. Conclusion: Benign skin lesions are usually seen by family physicians. Some of the BCLs may be confused with malignant skin lesions and may even be associated with systemic malignancies. It is very important that family physicians can recognize benign skin lesions and plan for diagnosis and treatment such as biopsy.


Keywords: Benign skin lesions, primary care, surgical evaluation





Amaç: Deri tümörleri çok yaygın olup çoğunlukla iyi huyludurlar. Benign cilt lezyonları (BCL), bir sendromun veya sistemik malign bir durumun belirtisi olabilirler. Bazen de malign lezyonlara dönüşebilirler. Çalışmamızın amacı, kliniğimizde eksize edilen geniş bir BCL serisinin prevalansını ve klinikopatolojik özelliklerini ortaya koymaktır. Gereç ve Yöntem: Genel cerrahi kliniğimizde 2012-2016 yılları arasında total eksizyonel biyopsi yapılan cilt lezyonları olan hastalar retrospektif olarak çalışmaya dahil edildi. Malign cilt lezyonları çalışma dışı bırakıldı. Benign cilt lezyonları Dünya Sağlık Örgütü Tümör Sınıflandırmasının Deri Tümörlerinin Patolojisi ve Genetiği'ne göre sınıflandırıldı. Bulgular: Çalışmaya BCL olan toplam 551 hasta dahil edildi. Bu hastaların 241’i (%43,7) kadın, 310’u (%56,7) erkekti. Yaş aralığı 2 ile 98 yaş aralığında olup, ortalama 39.7 idi. Benign cilt lezyonlarından en sık olarak (n=184, %33,3) appendageal tümörler yer almaktaydı ve bu bulgu istatistiksel olarak anlamlıydı (p=0.001). En sık görülen appendageal tümör tipi (n=75, %13,6)verruca vulgaris idi. Sonuç: Benign cilt lezyonları çoğunlukla aile hekimleri tarafından görülürler. Bunların bazıları malign cilt lezyonları ile karışabilir ve hatta sistemik maligniteler ile ilişkili olabilir. Benign cilt lezyonlarının aile hekimleri tarafından tanınması, biyopsi gibi tanı ve tedavi için planlama yapabilmesi çok önemlidir.


Anahtar Kelimeler: Benign cilt lezyonları, birinci basamak, cerrahi değerlendirme


Received date / Geliş tarihi: 16.08.2019, Accepted date / Kabul tarihi: 29.09.2019


1 Bezmialem Vakıf University School of Medicine, Department of General Surgery, Istanbul, TURKEY.

2 Gulhane Education and Research Hospital Department of General Surgery Ankara, TURKEY.

*Address for Correspondence / Yazışma Adresi: Vahit Onur Gul, Gulhane Education and Research Hospital Department of General Surgery Ankara, TURKEY.

E-mail: vonurgul@hotmail.com


Destek S, Gul VO. Surgical Evaluation of Common Benign Skin Lesions in Primary Care. TJFMPC, 2020;14(1): 48-55.


DOI: 10.21763/tjfmpc.693073





The vast majority of skin lesions is benign in character1. A benign skin lesion (BSL) does not spread to other parts of the body but continues its growth at the location where it first took its origin.2,3 Premalignant skin lesions (PSLs) can transform into malignant ones at a rate of 10%.2,4 They are most commonly seen in males.2,3 The lifetime risk of getting a skin cancer has been reported to be one out of five people in the United States.2,3


Skin lesions are usually sporadic; however, they can also be a component of a syndrome or they may be associated with systemic malignancies.1,2 Therefore, clinicians should differentiate between the benign and malignant lesions and should follow a systematic approach in evaluating these lesions.3,4 If there is a clinical suspicion of malignancy, biopsy should be performed definitely.3,4

In a large series and along with the reported findings in the literature, the present study aims to review and evaluate the prevalence and clinico-pathologic features of the BSLs surgically excised in our clinic.





The patients with skin lesions treated in our general surgery clinic between 2012 and 2016 were included in our study. This study was approved by the local ethics committee. Reviewing the patients’ charts revealed that a total of 712 patients underwent excisional biopsy due to several types of skin lesions.5 Of these patients, 27 were diagnosed with non-specific skin lesions and 136 were diagnosed with malignant skin lesions (MSLs). These patients were excluded from the study. Of the patients who were diagnosed with a MSL by the pathological examination, nine had been pre-diagnosed with a BSL after the physical examination, however, the excisional biopsy was reported to be a malignant lesion. A total of 551 patients with BSLs were included in the study. The age and gender of the patients; and the number, size (millimeter-mm), anatomic location, and the histo-pathological diagnosis of the skin lesions were evaluated. As in the studies on large patient series reported in the literature previously, the patients were assigned into age groups as 0-14, 15-59, and 60 +.6


The BSLs in the study were classified according to the Pathology and Genetics of Skin Tumours, World Health Organization (WHO) Classification of Tumours.7 Accordingly, the lesions were examined under six main headings: Keratinocytic BSLs, Melanocytic BSLs, Appendageal BSLs, Haematolymphoid BSLs, Soft tissue BSLs, Neural BSLs. The lesions included in these main groups were examined (Table 1).







Statistical analysis


The data obtained from the present study were analyzed with IBM SPSS Statistics Version 22 package software (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA). The Mann-Whitney U test and the Kruskal Wallis H test were used to examine the differences between the groups as the variables were not normally distributed. The Chi-square (χ²) analysis was used to analyze the associations between the groups of nominal variables. Fisher's Exact Test was used when the expected values in the cells of the 2x2 tables did not achieve a sufficient size. The Cochran's q test was used to compare the groups within themselves. The significance level of 0.05 was used to interpret the results. A p-value <0.05 indicated a significant association, whereas p values >0.05 indicated that there was not a significant association.





The present study included a total of 551 patients. The majority of the patients (n=310, 56.2%) were males and the study population had a female/male ratio of 0.77. The age of the patients in the study ranged from 2 to 98 years and the mean age was 39.7 years. The most common (n=96, 18.8%) accompanying disease group was the hepato-biliary disorders (fatty liver, gall bladder stone etc.). Benign skin lesions were most commonly located in the head and neck region (n=220, 43.1%). The lesions were mostly solitary (n=421, 82.5%) with a mean diameter of 14.1 mm. The success rate of excisional biopsy diagnosis was 100% (510). Rate of local recurrence was 2.3% (12) (Table2)






There was a statistically significant difference between the gender and the BSL groups (p = 0.001), 29.05% (70) of the females and 36.77% (114) of the males had ABSLs. In our study, there was a statistically significant difference between the BSL groups and the age distribution (p = 0.008). Patients aged between 15-59 years and over 60 years old were found to have ABSL (Table 3).


In the present study, there was a statistically significant difference between the BSL groups and the age distribution (p = 0.008). In the age group of 0-14 years, 2.94% (1) of the patients had ABSLs. This ratio was 35.23% (155) in the 15-59-year-old age group and 36.36% (28) in the age group of patients who were 60 years old or over (Table 3).


There was a statistically significant difference between the original location of the tumour and the BSL groups (p = 0.001). The ABSLs comprised 36.55% (87) of the lesions originating from the head and neck region, 48.95% (70) of the lesions originating on the trunk, 26.32% (20) of tumours of the upper extremities, and 7.45% (7) of the tumours of the lower extremities (Table 3).






There was a statistically significant difference between the number of the lesions and the BSL groups (p = 0.001). ABSLs comprised 35.82% (163) of the solitary lesions and 21.88% (21) of the multiple lesions. There were statistically significant differences between BSL groups in terms of the diameters of the lesions (p = 0.001). The lesion diameter of the MBSLs was significantly lower compared to the main groups of ABSLs and STBSLs (Table 4).








The epidemiologic studies on skin diseases have reported the rates of BSL and MSL at 4.5-12% and 1.5-6%, respectively.8-11 In general, the ratio of BSLs to the malignant ones is 1.5-4.5.8-11 Recent studies have reported a tendency to increase in the PSLs over the last years, with rates 1.82-4% found in large-scale epidemiological studies.12-14 In the present study, the ratio of BSL/MSL was found  to be 4.05 similarly to the results reported by previous studies.


Several epidemiologic studies conducted in various countries report the most common BSL as seborrheic keratosis (SK) in some series and as verruca vulgaris (VV) in the other series.9-11In our study, the most common BSL group was the ABSLs at a rate of 33.3% with a statistical significance. In general, the most common ABSL was the cystic sebaceous tumour (CST) (26.1%).


Other epidemiological studies on the skin diseases have reported that the most common BSL types are VV at a rate of 3.6-9.7% in childhood, VV again at a rate of 1.9-4.5% in adulthood, and SK at a rate of 2.3-7.8% in the geriatric age groups.15,16In the present study, the most common BSL types were KBSLs at a rate of 41.1% in childhood (VV 32.3%); ABSLs at a rate of 35.2% in adult ages (CST 27.7%); and ABSLs at a rate of 36.6% in the old age group (CST 21%).


BSLs can accompany some systemic diseases.1An underlying systemic disease should be investigated especially in the presence of multiple lesions; for example, in the presence of multiple SK, tricholemmoma, or CSTs; mostly malignancies of the internal organs should be suspected of, including the stomach, colon, or the pancreas.17-19The incidences of CSTs, keratoacanthoma, and sebaceoma increase in Muir-Torre syndrome; the incidences of haemangioma, lipoma, and tricholemmoma increase in Cowden's disease; the incidence of CST increases in Gardner syndrome.17-19However, we did not observe any of these conditions in our study.


Several studies have demonstrated that some BSLs may undergo a malignant transformation.20It has been reported that basal cell carcinoma may develop from SK; squamous cell carcinoma may develop from VV or keratoacanthoma lesions; melanoma may develop from MN.19-21None of these conditions was found out in our study. Malignant lesions can be misdiagnosed as benign.22In our study, although the physical examination findings of nine patients were suggestive of BSL, the pathological examination confirmed MSL. These patients accounted for 1.6% of MSL patients. For this reason, biopsy should be taken to confirm the diagnosis.21,22


Several studies recommend fine needle aspiration biopsy, core biopsy, or excisional biopsy to be performed, allowing for making a definite diagnosis so that the tumor structure and the histological type can be identified and its grade can be determined.22,23 Studies report that the core biopsy is superior to the fine needle aspiration biopsy and the excisional biopsy is superior to the core biopsy in terms of sensitivity, specificity, predictive value and accuracy.23,24It has been reported that the overall diagnostic accuracy of the excisional biopsy may be as high as 98%.24


In the present study, an excisional biopsy was performed which preserved the healthy margins (>1 mm) for all lesions pre-diagnosed as BSN. The diagnostic accuracy was found to be 100%. Several studies have reported that the lesions could recur after the excisional biopsies at varying rates ranging from 2 to 5%.24,25 The recurrence rate after the excisional biopsy was 2.3% in our study and the surgical excision was repeated in these patients. The excisional biopsy was successful in the diagnosis and treatment of the patients.


The limitations of the study were difficulties in accessing patient files and pathology results.





Family physicians most frequently encounter skin lesions. Skin lesions are mostly benign but may be confused with malignant ones. Some BSLs may be associated with systemic diseases or malignanciesThey may also undergo a malignant transformation. Family physicians should pay attention to these issues and follow a systematic approach to BSLs. In case of doubt, biopsy, surgical excision and further investigation and treatment should be provided.


Conflict of Interest: No conflict of interest was declared by the authors.


Financial Disclosure: No financial disclosure was declared by the authors.





  1. Nguyen T, Zuniga R.Skin conditions: benign nodular skin lesions.FP Essent2013;407:24-30. 
  2. Ingraffea A. Benign skin lesions. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am2013;21:21-32.
  3. Higgins JC, Maher MH, Douglas MS. Diagnosing Common Benign Skin Tumors. Am Fam Physician2015;92:601-7.
  4. Freak J. Identification of skin cancers 1: benign and premalignant lesions. Br J Community Nurs2005;10:8-12.
  5. Edlich RF, Becker DG, Long WB, Masterson TM. Excisional biopsy of skin tumors. J Long Term Eff Med Implants 2004; 14: 201-14.
  6. Murray CJ, Lopez AD, Black R,Mathers CD, Shibuya K, Ezzati M et al. Global burden of disease 2005: call for collaborators. Lancet 2007; 370109-110.
  7. LeBoit, P E (Philip E); International Agency for Research on Cancer; World Health Organization; International Academy of Pathology; European Organization for Research on Treatment of Cancer; UniversitätsSpital Zürich DepartementPathologie. Pathology and genetics of skin tumours. Lyon: IARC Press; 2006:9-291.
  8. Bertanha F, Nelumba EJP, Freiberg AK, Samorano LP, FestaNeto C. Profile of patients admitted to a triage dermatology clinic at a tertiary hospital in São Paulo, Brazil. An Bras Dermatol 2016; 91: 318–325.
  9. Furue M, Yamazaki S, Jimbow K, Tsuchida T, Amagai M, Tanaka T et al. Prevalence of dermatological disorders in Japan: a nationwide, cross-sectional, seasonal, multicenter, hospital-based study. J Dermatol 2011; 38: 310-20.
  10. Mohammedamin RS, van der Wouden JC, Koning S, van der Linden MW, Schellevis FG, vanSuijlekom-Smit LW et al. Increasing incidence of skin disorders in children? A comparison between 1987 and 2001. BMC Dermatol 2006; 6: 4.
  11. Kartal D, Cinar SL, Akin S, Ferahbas A, Borlu M. Skin findings of geriatric patients in Turkey: A 5-year survey. Dermatol Sinica 2015; 33: 196-200.
  12. Kim HS, Cho EA, Bae JM, Yu DS, Oh ST, Kang H et al. Recent trend in the incidence of premalignant and malignant skin lesions in Korea between 1991 and 2006. J Korean Med Sci 2010; 25: 924–9.
  13. Choi SH, Kim KH, Song KH. Clinical Features of Cutaneous Premalignant Lesions in Busan City and the Eastern Gyeongnam Province, Korea: A Retrospective Review of 1,292 Cases over 19 Years (1995~2013). Ann Dermatol2016;28:172–8.
  14. Bas Y, Kalkan G, Seckin HY, Takcı Z, Sahin S, Demir AK. Analysis of Dermatologic Problems in Geriatric Patients. Turk J Dermatol 2014; 2: 95-100.
  15. Kyriakis KP, Alexoudi I, Askoxylaki K, Vrani F, Kosma E. Epidemiologic aspects of seborrheic keratoses. Int J Dermatol 2012; 51: 233–234.
  16. Sinikumpu S-P, Huilaja L, Jokelainen J, Koiranen M, Auvinen J, Hägg PM et al. High Prevalence of Skin Diseases and Need for Treatment in a Middle-Aged Population. A Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Study. PLoSOne 2014; 9: e99533.
  17. Kanitakis J. Adnexal tumours of the skin as markers of cancer-prone syndromes. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2010;24:379-87. 
  18. Luba MC, Bangs SA, Mohler AM, Stulberg DL. Common benign skin tumors. Am Fam Physician 2003; 67: 729-38.
  19. Gogi AM, Ramanujam R. Clinicopathological Study and Management of Peripheral Soft Tissue Tumours. J Clin Diagn Res2013;7:2524-2526.
  20. Lee EH, Nehal KS, Disa JJ. Benign and premalignant skin lesions. PlastReconstr Surg2010;125:188e-198e.
  21. Ferrándiz C, Malvehy J, Guillén C, Ferrándiz-Pulido C, Fernández-Figueras M. Precancerous Skin Lesions. ActasDermosifiliogr 2017; 108: 31-41. 
  22. Hwang S-M, Pan H-C, Hwang M-K, Kim M-W, Lee J-S. Malignant Skin Tumor Misdiagnosed as a Benign Skin Lesion. Arch Craniofac Surg 2016; 17: 86–89.
  23. Woon DTS, Serpell JW. Preoperativecorebiopsy of soft‐tissuetumoursfacilitatestheirsurgicalmanagement: a 10‐year update. ANZ J Surg 2008;78:977–81.
  24. Kasraeian S, Allison DC, Ahlmann ER, Fedenko AN, Menendez LR. A Comparison of Fine-needleAspiration, CoreBiopsy, andSurgicalBiopsy in theDiagnosis of ExtremitySoftTissueMasses. ClinOrthopRelatRes. 2010;468(11):2992-3002.
  25. Layfield LJ, Schmidt RL, Sangle N, Crim JR. Diagnosticaccuracyandclinicalutility of biopsy in musculoskeletallesions: a comparison of fine-needleaspiration, core, andopenbiopsytechniques.

Table 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

Table 4.

Turkish Journal of Family Medicine
& Primary Care

e-ISSN: 1307-2048
© 2016 www.tjfmpc.gen.tr