Melanoma differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Yazan Daaboul, M.D.; Serge Korjian M.D.


Melanoma must be differentiated from other causes of skin lesions, such as other skin cancers, premalignant skin tumors, and benign skin lesions.

Differential Diagnosis

Melanoma must be differentiated from other causes of skin lesions, such as:

Oral melanoma must be differentiated from other mouth lesions such as oral candidiasis and aphthous ulcer

Disease Presentation Risk Factors Diagnosis Affected Organ Systems Important features Picture
Diseases predominantly affecting the oral cavity
Oral Candidiasis
  • Denture users
  • As a side effect of medication, most commonly having taken antibiotics. Inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of lung conditions (e.g, asthma or COPD) may also result in oral candidiasis which may be reduced by regularly rinsing the mouth with water after taking the medication.
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Confirmatory tests rarely needed
Localized candidiasis

Invasive candidasis

Tongue infected with oral candidiasis - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=11717223.jpg
Herpes simplex oral lesions
  • Stress
  • Recent URTI
  • Female sex
  • The symptoms of primary HSV infection generally resolve within two weeks
Oral herpes simplex infection - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=19051042.jpg
Aphthous ulcers
  • Painful, red spot or bump that develops into an open ulcer
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnosis of exclusion
  • Oral cavity
  • Self-limiting , Pain decreases in 7 to 10 days, with complete healing in 1 to 3 weeks
By Ebarruda - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=7903358
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma - By Luca Pastore, Maria Luisa Fiorella, Raffaele Fiorella, Lorenzo Lo Muzio -, CC BY 2.5,
  • Vulvar lesions occur independent of oral lesions
Leukoplakia - By Aitor III - Own work, Public Domain,
Oral melanoma - By Emmanouil K Symvoulakis, Dionysios E Kyrmizakis, Emmanouil I Drivas, Anastassios V Koutsopoulos, Stylianos G Malandrakis, Charalambos E Skoulakis and John G Bizakis - Symvoulakis et al. Head & Face Medicine 2006 2:7 doi:10.1186/1746-160X-2-7 (Open Access), [1], CC BY-SA 2.0,
Fordyce spots
Fordyce spots - Por Perene - Obra do próprio, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Burning mouth syndrome
Torus palatinus
Torus palatinus - By Photo taken by dozenist, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Diseases involving oral cavity and other organ systems
Behcet's disease
Behcet's disease - By Ahmet Altiner MD, Rajni Mandal MD -, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Crohn's disease
oral syphilis - By CDC/Susan Lindsley -, Public Domain,
Coxsackie virus
  • Symptomatic treatment
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease
Chicken pox
Chickenpox - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
  • Unvaccinated individuals[26][27]
  • Crowded and/or unsanitary conditions
  • Traveling to less developed and developing countries
  • Immunocompromized
  • Winter and spring seasons
  • Born after 1956 and never fully vaccinated
  • Health care workers
Koplick spots (Measles) - By CDC -, Public Domain,


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