Total body photography for the diagnosis of cutaneous melanoma in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Biostatistics, Evidence Synthesis and Test Evaluation Research Group, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
  • NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre
  • Departments of Cardiology, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK.


BACKGROUND: Early detection of melanoma is essential to reduce mortality. Total body photography (TBP) can facilitate the detection of melanoma in high-risk individuals. However, the accuracy of TBP in diagnosing melanoma remains unclear.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the diagnostic accuracy of TBP for the detection of melanoma in adults.

METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, and Centre for Reviews databases were searched from inception to 26 May 2020. Studies using TBP for diagnosing melanoma with at least one follow-up appointment were eligible if they provided data to calculate at least one diagnostic accuracy measure. Two authors independently screened articles, extracted data, and assessed quality. Disagreements were resolved by a third reviewer.

RESULTS: Ten studies were included, comprising 41703 patients who underwent TBP and 6203 biopsies. Melanoma in situ (MIS) was diagnosed in 315 (5.1%) lesions and invasive melanoma in 187 (3.0%) lesions biopsied. Summary estimates for TBP in diagnosing melanoma were calculated: mean percentage of biopsies positive for MIS or melanoma was 16% (95% CI, 11%-20%), NNB was 8.6 (range 2.3-19.6), naevus:melanoma ratio was 7.6 (range 1.3-18.6), and MIS:melanoma ratio was 1.7 (1.0-3.5). Regression analysis showed a negative correlation between NNB and MIS:melanoma ratio.

CONCLUSIONS: Available data regarding the diagnostic accuracy of TBP are heterogeneous, due to variability in the risk profile of cohorts and TBP protocols. Best current estimates suggest that TBP for diagnosing melanoma has an acceptable NNB in high-risk patients. However, prospective diagnostic test accuracy studies are needed to accurately gauge the diagnostic accuracy of TBP.


Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Early online date28 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Dec 2020