The 'epidemic' of melanoma between under- and overdiagnosis

J Cutan Pathol. 2012 Jan;39(1):9-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0560.2011.01831.x.


In the past decades, the incidence of melanoma has been reported to rise in epidemic proportions. The chief reason for that pseudo-epidemic is improved criteria for diagnosis that allow melanomas to be recognized far more accurately and at earlier stages. The rising number of melanomas diagnosed has resulted in increased diagnostic scrutiny, more pigmented lesions being biopsied and more melanomas recognized, thus enhancing the 'epidemic' in self-perpetuating fashion. Regression of melanomas may, in part, explain why lesions undetected before did not result in a far higher mortality. Another potential reason for the disparity between increasing incidence of melanoma and relatively steady mortality may be overdiagnosis of melanoma. The latter may be curtailed by establishment of well-defined diagnostic categories, efforts to establish reliable criteria for recognition of those categories, better clinicopathologic correlation, postponement of biopsy of pigmented lesions in the case of irritation and excisional rather than incisional biopsies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Skin Pigmentation*