OCT 01, 2015 10:30 AM PDT

How the diagnosis of melanoma is made: clinical detection/recognition and histologic/genetic assessment

  • Director of Dermatopathology (Dermatology), Associate Professor, Dermatology & Pathology, University of Colorado School of Medicine
      Whitney A. High, MD, MEng, a native of Colorado, is the Director of the laboratory, and he is board-certified in Dermatology and Dermatopathology. He also has certification in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. After practicing as a chemical engineer in industry, Dr. High returned to medical school to receive his medical degree from the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in 2000. Dr. High completed his dermatology residency training at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2004, serving as Chief Resident, and his dermatopathology fellowship at the University of Colorado in Denver in 2005. He has also studied tropical medicine in Central and South America.

      Dr. High is appointed to the Departments of Dermatology & Pathology at the University of Colorado, and the Department of Chemistry at the Colorado School of Mines. He serves as the only dermatologist on faculty at the Denver STD/HIV Training Center, a clinic sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Dr. High also has a degree in law from the University of Denver.

      Dr. High has authored 2 textbooks, 12 chapters and more than 40 medical papers. He currently serves as one of the youngest editors of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, and he is an editor/editorial board member of other medical journals.


    The assessment of pigmented lesions is a difficult area of dermatology and dermatopathology.  Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer in woman age 25-29 years, yet it is also a leading cause of medicolegal suits against pathologists.  Much of the assessment of melanoma is subjective, and as of 2015, we do not yet have a singular diagnostic tool for melanoma, in routine use, that has greater than about 90% sensitivity.  In my short primer, in introductory fashion, we will discuss how the diagnosis of melanoma is rendered on clinical and histologic grounds. 

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