Original articles

Histopathological parameters determining lesion colours in the naevus of Ota: a morphometric study using computer‐assisted image analysis

Article first published online: 22 Jun 2004
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2004.05902.x

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Background  Naevus of Ota manifests various colours ranging from light brown to blue. Naevus colours have been claimed to reflect the depth of melanin pigments but the claim has rarely been substantiated by quantitative studies.

Objectives  We attempted both quantitative and qualitative analyses of the naevus of Ota to find out relations between histological patterns or parameters of melanin/melanocytes and lesion colours.

Methods  Lesion colours were determined by one of the authors and were confirmed by a separate panel of dermatologists. Forty biopsy specimens of naevus of Ota were evaluated by both computer‐assisted quantitative image analysis and a previously proposed conventional pattern analysis.

Results  The mean area fraction (AFmean) of melanin, the depth of the maximum area fraction of melanin (level of AFmax) and the depth of the deepest infiltrating melanocyte were significantly greater or deeper for bluish lesions than brownish lesions. Based on the qualitative pattern analysis we found that all the brownish lesions demonstrated superficial dermal melanin pigments, whereas bluish lesions tended to show more heterogeneous histological patterns. Eyelid lesions, all of which were bluish, revealed greater AFmean value than cheek lesions, presenting as either brownish or bluish colours.

Conclusions  Quantitative analysis indicated that pigment density measures such as AFmean could be as important as the depth of melanocytes in the explanation of the lesion colours in naevus of Ota. However, qualitative pattern analysis failed to link specific patterns with lesion colours, especially in bluish lesions, probably due to the lack of consideration of the pigment density.

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