How to diagnose nonpigmented skin tumors: a review of vascular structures seen with dermoscopy: part I. Melanocytic skin tumors

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Sep;63(3):361-74; quiz 375-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2009.11.698.


Dermoscopy is a noninvasive tool that can be helpful in the diagnosis of nonpigmented skin tumors. This is because dermoscopy permits the visualization of key vascular structures that are usually not visible to the naked eye. Much work has concentrated on the identification of specific morphologic types of vessels that allow a classification into melanocytic versus nonmelanocytic and benign versus malignant nonpigmented skin tumors. Among a broad spectrum of different types of vascular patterns, six main morphologies can be identified. These are comma-like, dotted, linear-irregular, hairpin, glomerular, and arborizing vessels. With some exceptions, comma, dotted, and linear irregular vessels are associated with melanocytic tumors, while the latter three vascular types are generally indicative of keratinocytic tumors. Aside from vascular morphology, the architectural arrangement of vessels within the tumor and the presence of additional dermoscopic clues are equally important for the diagnosis. This article provides a general overview of the dermoscopic evaluation of nonpigmented skin tumors and is divided into two parts. Part I discusses the dermoscopic vascular patterns of benign and malignant melanocytic skin tumors. Part II discusses the dermoscopic vascular patterns of benign and malignant nonmelanocytic nonpigmented skin tumors. In each part, additional special management guidelines for melanocytic and nonmelanocytic nonpigmented skin tumors, respectively, will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Vessels / pathology*
  • Dermoscopy / methods*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanocytes / pathology*
  • Melanoma / blood supply
  • Melanoma / diagnosis
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic / blood supply
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic / diagnosis
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic / pathology
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology