In vivo characterization of melanin in melanocytic lesions: Spectroscopic study on 1671 pigmented skin lesions

Renato Marchesini, Aldo Bono, Mauro Carrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study is to determine the role of melanin in the various steps of progression of melanocytic neoplasia. To this aim, we perform a retrospective analysis on 1671 multispectral images of in vivo pigmented skin lesions previously recruited in the framework of a study focused on the computer-assisted diagnosis of melanoma. The series included 288 melanomas in different phases of progression, i.e., in situ, horizontal and vertical growth phase invasive melanomas, 424 dysplastic nevi, and other 957 melanocytic lesions. Analysis of the absorbance spectra in the different groups shows that the levels of eumelanin and pheomelanin increase and decrease, respectively, from dysplastic nevi to invasive melanomas. In both cases, the trend of melanin levels is associated to the progression from dysplastic nevi to vertical growth phase melanomas, reflecting a possible hierarchy in the natural history of the early phases of the disease. Our results suggest that diffuse reflectance spectroscopy used to differentiate eumelanin and pheomelanin in in vivo lesions is a promising technique useful to develop better strategies for the characterization of various melanocytic lesions, for instance, by monitoring melanin in a time-lapse study of a lesion that was supposed to be benign.

Original languageEnglish
Article number014027
JournalJournal of Biomedical Optics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • diffuse reflectance
  • eumelanin
  • melanin
  • melanocytic lesions
  • melanoma
  • pheomelanin
  • spectrophotometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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