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Open Access Research article

The role of spectrophotometry in the diagnosis of melanoma

Paolo A Ascierto1*, Marco Palla1, Fabrizio Ayala1, Ileana De Michele1, Corrado Caracò1, Antonio Daponte1, Ester Simeone1, Stefano Mori1, Maurizio Del Giudice1, Rocco A Satriano2, Antonio Vozza2, Giuseppe Palmieri3 and Nicola Mozzillo1

Author Affiliations

1 National Cancer Institute, Naples, Italy

2 Unit of Dermatology, Second University of Naples, Italy

3 Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry-CNR, Sassari, Italy

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BMC Dermatology 2010, 10:5  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-10-5

Published: 13 August 2010



Spectrophotometry (SPT) could represent a promising technique for the diagnosis of cutaneous melanoma (CM) at earlier stages of the disease. Starting from our experience, we further assessed the role of SPT in CM early detection.


During a health campaign for malignant melanoma at National Cancer Institute of Naples, we identified a subset of 54 lesions to be addressed to surgical excision and histological examination. Before surgery, all patients were investigated by clinical and epiluminescence microscopy (ELM) screenings; selected lesions underwent spectrophotometer analysis. For SPT, we used a video spectrophotometer imaging system (Spectroshade® MHT S.p.A., Verona, Italy).


Among the 54 patients harbouring cutaneous pigmented lesions, we performed comparison between results from the SPT screening and the histological diagnoses as well as evaluation of both sensitivity and specificity in detecting CM using either SPT or conventional approaches. For all pigmented lesions, agreement between histology and SPT classification was 57.4%. The sensitivity and specificity of SPT in detecting melanoma were 66.6% and 76.2%, respectively.


Although SPT is still considered as a valuable diagnostic tool for CM, its low accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity represent the main hamper for the introduction of such a methodology in clinical practice. Dermoscopy remains the best diagnostic tool for the preoperative diagnosis of pigmented skin lesions.