17 December 2015

Suspicious pigment spots more common on darker skin

'Acral pigmented lesions', which may turn out to be melanoma, have not been well studied in people with darker skin.

People with darker skin are about one-third more likely to have potentially dangerous pigment "spots" on their palms and soles.

In rare cases, these "acral pigmented lesions" turn out to be melanoma skin cancer. People with these lesions should have them checked by a dermatologist to be sure they are benign, the researchers said.

Reggae musician Bob Marley, for example, died from acral melanoma, which was diagnosed under his toenail.

Read: Men most at risk of melanoma 

"Acral pigmented lesions have not been well studied in people with darker skin," senior study author Dr Jennifer Stein, an associate professor in the department of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City, said in a centre news release.

Stein's team evaluated the palms and soles of 1,052 patients seen at dermatology clinics in New York City and Miami. The researchers detected 391 acral pigmented lesions on palms and 278 on soles.

Read: New treatment may slow melanoma

The lesions were found on 30 percent of white patients and 40 percent of those with darker skin – about a 30 percent difference.

The researchers also found that 44 percent of patients with the darkest skin had the lesions, compared with 28 percent of those with the lightest skin.

Acral pigmented lesions were also associated with a higher number of moles, especially among minority patients.

Only 54 percent of patients with these lesions on their palms and 43 percent who had them on their soles knew they had them, according to the study published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

Read more:

Gene boosts melanoma risk  

Seniors with melanoma not a priority  

Can coffee  protect you from melanoma?


Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules