The Dermatopathology Institute analyzes the current stories making headlines in dermatology with a viewpoint from the microscope, helping you to truly understand all of the nuances of the disease.
We hope some of you are able to attend our upcoming community and hospital talks.
Bread of Life Church, Torrance
February 22nd, 2008
Malignant Melanoma-How a Dermatopathologist Can Assist You
The Dermatopathology Institute
How Can a Dermatopathologist Help Me?
| Shades of Gray!
Almost everyone has a mole lurking somewhere on their body (and we're not talking about the small furry types!). Thankfully, nearly all moles are benign but through the keen eyes of vigilant dermatologists, moles that have some atypical features are increasingly being discovered on routine skin examinations. As we learned in today's feature article, one should be aware of the hallmarks of a mole that deserves our attention, characteristics that may signal a change to a melanoma. One category known as a dysplastic nevus or atypical mole may have features both clinically and histologically that are intermediate or even indeterminate between a benign nevus and a frank melanoma. Only a biopsy can definitely determine whether a mole is benign, malignant, or in this special category of an atypical nevus that may place the patient at increased risk of developing a melanoma. Thus it is imperative that any atypical mole be biopsied and diagnosed by a qualified expert. Depending on the degree of atypicality, a re-excision may be recommended and close clinical follow up with at least yearly skin examinations should ensue.
Medical Terms You Should Know
| What is a Tumor?
Tumor literally means a swelling or a bump. Although most of us associate the term with cancer or a malignancy, the vast majority of tumors are benign. This gentleman pictured to the right has a rare syndrome known as Brooke-Spiegler syndrome, sometimes referred to as the Turban Tumor Syndrome. He has several protuberant tumors on his scalp and forehead. In extreme cases, these tumors can completely replace the scalp, resembling a turban. As distressing as this sight may be, these tumors are benign.
However, tumors that are malignant are cancers. We learned of the different types of cancers in the last newsletter. For nearly every malignant tumor, there is a benign counterpart. Thus, for a malignant melanoma, there are benign melanocytic nevi or moles. For a liposarcoma, a malignant tumor arising within the fat cells, there is a benign lipoma, one of the most common tumors. The only definitive way to differentiate between a benign and malignant tumor is to biopsy it and have a pathologist render a diagnosis under the microscope.