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January 1984

For the Record: The History of Precursors to Malignant Melanoma

Author Affiliations

Family Studies Section Environmental Epidemiology Branch National Cancer Institute Landow 4C-18 Bethesda, MD 20205

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia

National Cancer Institute Bethesda

Arch Dermatol. 1984;120(1):18-20. doi:10.1001/archderm.1984.01650370024003

To the Editor.—  In response to the recent letter in the Archives by Fusaro et al1 regarding precursor nevi and malignant melanoma, we offer the following observations.Priority in new medical discoveries is notoriously difficult to establish, since, as we all recognize, investigators necessarily build on the observations of many others who have worked in the same area. We believe the distinction of recognizing familial melanoma as a unique entity belongs to the eminent Scottish surgeon, Sir William Norris. In 1820, describing the first patient with melanoma reported in the English language literature, Norris2 noted that his patient's father had died of melanoma, and many of the family members had large numbers of nevi on their skin. He concluded: "These facts... would incline me to believe that this disease is hereditary."