Benefits of total body photography and digital dermatoscopy ("two-step method of digital follow-up") in the early diagnosis of melanoma in patients at high risk for melanoma

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Jul;67(1):e17-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2011.04.008. Epub 2011 Jun 16.


Background: Early detection of melanoma is the best way to improve prognosis. Digital follow-up (DFU) programs of populations at high risk could be an efficient strategy for detecting early melanomas with low morbidity.

Objective: We sought to report the added value of the use of the "two-step method" (digital total body photography and digital dermatoscopy).

Methods: This was an analysis of the surveillance of 618 patients at high risk for melanoma included in our DFU program from 1999 to 2008.

Results: A total of 11,396 lesions were monitored (mean 18.44/patient) during a median follow-up of 96 months (median 10 visits/patient). A total of 1152 lesions, 1.86 per patient, were excised. Almost 70% (798) were lesions previously registered at least twice, whereas 356 (30%) were detected and removed in the same visit. During follow-up, 98 melanomas (8.5% of excised lesions) were diagnosed in 78 patients (12.6%). In all, 53 melanomas were in situ (53.3%), whereas invasive (45) showed a Breslow index of less than 1 mm (median 0.5 mm) and none were ulcerated.

Limitations: Because there are no control groups we cannot determine if the combined use of total body photography and digital dermatoscopy is more beneficial than these techniques used separately.

Conclusion: DFU with total body photography and dermatoscopy in a selected population at high risk demonstrated the early detection of melanomas with a low rate of excisions. Long-term follow-up is required to allow the detection of slow-growing melanomas. Based on our 10-year experience, melanomas can be diagnosed at any time, suggesting that in a population at high risk for melanoma, DFU should be maintained over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dermoscopy*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Photography*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Young Adult