Dispelling myths concerning pigmented skin lesions

V. Piccolo, T. Russo, J. Giacomel, A. Lallas, R. Alfano, G. Argenziano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The history of medicine is replete with examples of debunked myths, and in daily clinical dermatological practice, we must still counter many misconceptions regarding pigmented lesions, both with patients and other medical practitioners. Debunking myths and attempting to explain the reasons for these erroneous beliefs are the purposes of this review. The literature review has been partially guided by the results obtained from an online questionnaire conducted on an Italian website (www.vediamocichiara.it) from February 15, 2015 to March 15, 2015. The remaining discussed were selected on the basis of the existing literature and our personal experience. In order to explore these misconceptions, the following are the seven most salient questions that require investigation: (i) Is it dangerous to excise moles?; (ii) Is it dangerous to traumatize moles?; (iii) Are plantar moles worrisome?; (iv) Is it necessary to selectively apply sunscreen to moles?; (v) Is it inadvisable to partially biopsy a melanoma?; (vi) Do moles turn into melanoma?; and (vii) Is it necessary to perform sentinel lymph node biopsy for thin melanomas and for atypical Spitz naevi? Myths are ubiquitous, being prevalent in dermatological practice, with many of them concerning pigmented skin lesions. By encouraging critical analysis by patients and medical practitioners, the birth and perpetuation of myths can potentially be minimized, for the ultimate benefit of patients. This requires a scientific approach to be rigorously applied to dermatology, with critical questioning of unsubstantiated hypotheses including those emanating from the mass media as well as from respected sources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-925
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Dermatology
  • Infectious Diseases


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