Thursday, August 18, 2011

Melanoma: Look for the Ugly Duckling

Atypical Even for Atypical

A group at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York found that moles in the same person tend to look alike, but a malignant melanoma will often look different from the individual’s mole pattern—the “ugly duckling sign.”

Identifying pigmented moles that look different from a person’s other moles—“even in those with multiple atypical nevi,” said Dr. Ashfaq A. Marghoob, is a practical way to spot malignant melanoma. His research was published in the Archives of Dermatology.

Marghoob and his colleagues had 34 people with varying levels of expertise identify ugly duckling moles in patients with several atypical moles. Participants included 8 mole experts, 13 dermatologists, 5 dermatology nurses, and 8 non-MD medical staff members.  They were shown photographs of the backs and close-ups of moles from 12 patients who had five melanomas, at least eight atypical moles and 140 benign pigmented moles.

All five melanomas and benign moles were identified as different by at least two thirds of the participants.  Investigators concluded that the usefulness of the ugly duckling method in malignant melanoma skin cancer screening by general health care providers and lay persons “should be further assessed.”

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