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Dermoscopy (dermatoscopy, epiluminescence microscopy [ELM], incident light microscopy, skin surface microscopy) is a non-invasive diagnostic technique for the in vivo observation of pigmented skin lesions, allowing a better visualization of surface and subsurface structures. This diagnostic tool permits the recognition of morphologic structures not visible to the naked eye, thus opening a new dimension of the clinical morphologic features of pigmented skin lesions.

The technique involves covering the skin lesion with mineral oil, alcohol, or even water and then inspecting the lesion using a hand-held lens, a hand-held scope (also called a dermatoscope), a stereomicroscope, a camera, or a digital imaging system. Magnifications of these various instruments range from 6x to 40x and even up to 100x. The widely used dermatoscope has a 10-fold magnification, sufficient for routine assessment of pigmented skin lesions. The fluid placed on the lesion eliminates surface reflection and renders the cornified layer translucent, thus allowing a better visualization of pigmented structures within the epidermis, the dermoepidermal junction, and the superficial dermis. Moreover, size and shape of vessels of the superficial vascular plexus can be easily visualized by this procedure.

Previous studies demonstrated that dermoscopy improves accuracy in diagnosing pigmented skin lesions. Reports assessing diagnostic accuracy by clinical examination have shown that dermatologists are able to detect melanoma in 65-80% of cases, depending on the expertise of the examiner. In a recent systematic review dermoscopy has been reported to allow 10 to 27% higher sensitivity in diagnosing melanoma when compared to clinical diagnosis by the naked eye. However, it has been shown clearly that when using dermoscopy clinicians may improve their diagnostic performance only if trained formally.
In this spirit the ‘First World Congress on Dermoscopy’ has been designed for colleagues eager to study the many morphologic facets of pigmented skin lesions. The ‘World Congress on Dermoscopy’ promises to be an exiting event offering a valuable learning experience. We very much look forward to welcoming you to Rome.