Melanoma in skin of color

From dermoscopedia
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 Author(s): Richard Usatine, Rachel Manci
Description This chapter describes the dermoscopy criteria of melanoma in skin of color
Author(s) Rachel Manci · Richard Usatine
Responsible author Richard Usatine→ send e-mail
Status unknown
Status update April 24, 2023
Status by Ralph P. Braun

Melanoma occurs less frequently in persons of color but is associated with higher rates of morbidity and mortality. In a systematic review performed by Higgins et al., the following conclusions were made: [1]

  • African Americans have deeper tumors at time of diagnosis in addition to increased rates of regionally advanced and distant disease. Lesions are generally located on the lower extremities and have an increased propensity for ulceration. Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is the most common melanoma subtype found in AA patients.
  • In Hispanics, superficial spreading melanoma is the most common melanoma subtype. Lower extremity lesions are more common relative to Caucasians. Hispanics have the highest rate of oral cavity melanomas across all ethnic groups.
  • In Asians, acral and subungual sites are most common. Specifically, Pacific Islanders have the highest proportion of mucosal melanomas across all ethnic groups.

Local dermoscopic features described for melanoma in general (mostly studied in light skinned populations) are the following:

Melanoma specific structures:


Melanoma patterns:


Current literature on melanoma in SOC:

December 2020, Pubmed search of dermoscopy melanoma “skin of color” comes up with 2 references only: Tan A, Stein JA. Dermoscopic patterns of acral melanocytic lesions in skin of color. Cutis. 2019 May;103(5):274-276. [2]

Madankumar R, et al. Acral melanocytic lesions in the United States: Prevalence, awareness, and dermoscopic patterns in skin-of-color and non-Hispanic white patients. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016 Apr;74(4):724-30.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2015.11.035. Epub 2016 Jan 20. PMID: 26803347.[3]

(Note that none of the lesions were melanomas)

A similar search on “dermoscopy melanoma African” added this article: de Giorgi V, Trez E, Salvini C, Duquia R, De Villa D, Sestini S, Gervini R, Lotti T. Dermoscopy in black people. Br J Dermatol. 2006 Oct;155(4):695-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2006.07415.x. [4] Performed in Brazil, 100 clinically suspicious cases, 79 were Clark naevi, 15 seborrhoeic keratoses, four blue naevi, one dermatofibroma and one melanoma. Darker pigmentation of the skin did not impede the identification of single dermoscopic features. With only one melanoma, it is hard to draw conclusions about sensitivity of the features described originally in lighter skin.

A similar search on “dermoscopy melanoma Asian” found 13 articles including some relating to Hispanic skin. Most of these articles dealt with ALM. The Asian population is clearly the most studied group among all types of skin of color for dermoscopy of melanoma. We will address the details under the ALM section.

Superficial Spreading Melanoma

Nodular Melanoma

Lentigo Maligna Melanoma

While LMM can occur on the face and other sun-damaged areas.


  • Annular-granular pattern
  • Asymmetric follicular openings
  • Gray dots/granules around ostial openings
  • Circle within circle sign
  • Angulated lines forming rhomboids
  • Blotches

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM)

Many articles in the medical literature state that acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is the most common type of melanoma in Asians and persons of African descent.

Data from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registry from 2006 to 20152 showed % of ALM by ethnic group as:[5]

  • Black Americans (blacks) -34%
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders -23%
  • Hispanic whites – 9%
  • Non-Hispanic whites – 1%.

Studies outside the US have shown percentage of ALM amongst all melanoma cases by ethnic groups:

  • Asian – ALMs made up 65% of all melanomas [6]
  • Mexico – ALMs made up 24-31% of all melanomas[7]

Acral Volar patterns: melanomas on the palms and soles

  • Parallel ridge pattern
  • Atypical fibrillar pattern
  • Diffuse pigmentation with multiple shades of brown
  • Multi-component pattern

In general, it is clear that ALM is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in skin of color patients. Therefore, the dermoscopy of these melanomas needs to be clearly understood and clinically applied.

Other specific melanoma locations of interest are covered in the next subchapters.

Links to additional chapters on Skin of Color


  1. Higgins et al.: Clinical Presentations of Melanoma in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Dermatol Surg 2019;45:791-801. PMID: 30614836. DOI.
  2. Tan & Stein: Dermoscopic patterns of acral melanocytic lesions in skin of color. Cutis 2019;103:274-276. PMID: 31233579.
  3. Madankumar et al.: Acral melanocytic lesions in the United States: Prevalence, awareness, and dermoscopic patterns in skin-of-color and non-Hispanic white patients. J Am Acad Dermatol 2016;74:724-30.e1. PMID: 26803347. DOI.
  4. de Giorgi et al.: Dermoscopy in black people. Br J Dermatol 2006;155:695-9. PMID: 16965417. DOI.
  5. Huang et al.: Acral Lentiginous Melanoma: Incidence and Survival in the United States, 2006-2015, an Analysis of the SEER Registry. J Surg Res 2020;251:329-339. PMID: 32208196. DOI.
  6. Mun et al.: Dermoscopy of Melanomas on the Trunk and Extremities in Asians. PLoS One 2016;11:e0158374. PMID: 27391775. DOI.
  7. Lino-Silva et al.: Melanoma in Mexico: Clinicopathologic Features in a Population with Predominance of Acral Lentiginous Subtype. Ann Surg Oncol 2016;23:4189-4194. PMID: 27401447. DOI.
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