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  • The art and science of photography have evolved tremendously in the past decade, providing physicians with a versatile and practical set of tools to enhance the practice of cutaneous oncology and improve patient care.

  • Photography is an invaluable tool in the education of trainees, peers, and the public regarding the identification of and treatment options for skin cancers.


  • With the convenience of smartphone cameras, extra attention should be made to ensure that proper patient consent and secure applications are used.

  • Sharing of photographs between mobile devices has become a concern in clinical practice.


  • The role of photography in cutaneous oncology spans throughout the practice. It encompasses the documentation of tumors and biopsy sites, the monitoring of suspicious lesions, and communication between physicians regarding identification and treatments performed.

  • Smartphone technology allows for convenient and secure in-office photography and can be utilized for teledermatology and e-consultation.


  • Photography can be used by patients during their regular skin self-examinations to document new or changing lesions.

  • New smartphone applications allow for measuring and tracking skin lesions, but they should be used with caution as their efficacy is currently unknown.


Like all medical photography, the photography of skin cancers has evolved dramatically in the last decade. Advances in traditional film photography, instant photography, and digital photography1-6 have resulted in an ever-expanding list of uses of photography in the cutaneous oncology unit.

The applications for photography regarding skin cancers are as varied as the interactions we have with skin cancer patients. Photography can be used in the diagnosis of skin cancers, tumor tracking, intraoperative mapping of skin cancer (as in Mohs micrographic surgery),7 and in following the treatment or postoperative course of skin cancers. It is also routinely used to teach students, residents, patients, staff, and any other group about the detection and treatment of skin cancers.8

The science of photography is changing almost as rapidly as that of medicine. Despite technological advances, the fundamental principles of photography have remained unchanged for decades. An understanding of these essential skills will continue to determine the value of the photographs.

Any mention of specific products in this chapter should be understood to be included only for their value as examples that happen to exist at this point. Tomorrow or next month there may very well be better, faster, cheaper, and easier-to-use equipment that will render moot any recommendations or brand-specific comments made here.


No matter what equipment is used and regardless of the subject matter, there are certain things about photography that remain universal. First of all, we are capturing light. This light has been reflected off of a subject, passed through a lens, and then is recorded on either light-sensitive film ...

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