Background: Caucasians with red hair and fair skin have a remarkably increased risk of malignant melanoma compared to non-redhead Caucasians.
Objectives: With the aim of a reliable melanoma diagnosis in redheads, the application of dermatofluoroscopy was analyzed in 16 patients with red hair. Most of them had been included in a clinical dermatofluoroscopy study for patients with the suspicion of melanoma. We examined whether the 25 lesions of the redheads showed the same characteristic melanin fluorescence spectra for dysplastic nevi and melanomas as those of non-redhead Caucasians or whether there was a different fluorescence pattern. This is important in view of the known significantly altered ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin in the skin of redheads.
Methods: More than 8,000 spatially resolved fluorescence spectra of 25 pigmented lesions were measured and analysed. The spectra were excited by the stepwise absorption of two 800-nm photons (principle of dermatofluoroscopy). Furthermore, the fluorescence spectra of eumelanin and pheomelanin in hair samples were determined in the same way.
Results: The evaluation revealed that the melanin fluorescence spectra of dysplastic nevi and melanomas of redheads have the same spectral characteristics as those of non-redhead Caucasians. An accompanying result is that dermatofluoroscopy shows identical fluorescence spectra for eumelanin and pheomelanin.
Conclusions: Dermatofluoroscopy proves to be a reliable diagnostic method also for redheads. Our results also explain our recent finding that there is a uniform fluorescence spectroscopic fingerprint for melanomas of all subtypes, which is of particular interest for hypomelanotic and apparently amelanotic melanomas containing pheomelanin.