Key points in dermoscopic differentiation between early acral melanoma and acral nevus

J Dermatol. 2011 Jan;38(1):25-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.2010.01174.x.


Acral skin is the most prevalent site of malignant melanoma in non-Caucasian populations. On acral skin, other various kinds of pigmented lesions are also detected. Particularly, melanocytic nevus is commonly seen on acral volar skin; approximately 10% of Japanese have a nevus on their soles. Prognosis of acral melanoma is still generally poor because of delayed detection in the advanced stages. To improve the prognosis, early detection is essential. Early acral melanoma is seen as a brownish macule, which is clinically quite similar to acral nevus. Therefore, clinicians often face a dilemma when they see a pigmented macule on acral volar skin. Introduction of dermoscopy was a great epoch in this field. Pigmentation pattern on dermoscopy is completely opposite between early acral melanoma and acral nevus; pigmentation on the ridges of the surface skin markings is detected in early acral melanoma, whereas pigmentation along the furrows of the skin markings is seen in acral nevus. We termed these dermoscopic patterns the parallel ridge pattern and the parallel furrow pattern, respectively. These features are highly helpful in the differentiation between the two biologically distinct entities. The sensitivity and specificity of the parallel ridge pattern in diagnosing early acral melanoma is 86% and 99%, respectively. However, we must be aware that dermoscopic features in acral nevus sometimes mimic the parallel ridge pattern and that other conditions also could show dermoscopic features similar to the parallel ridge pattern. In this review article, we summarize key points of the dermoscopic diagnosis of early acral melanoma and then describe the three-step algorithm for the management of acral melanocytic lesions, which surely aids us in effectively detecting early acral melanoma and in reducing unnecessary resection of benign nevus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Dermoscopy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Nevus / diagnosis*
  • Nevus / pathology
  • Pigmentation
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology