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March 2009

Roosevelt’s Pigmented Lesion: Probably Not a Melanoma

Arch Dermatol. 2009;145(3):339. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2008.617

Ackerman and Lomazow1 in “An Inquiry Into the Nature of the Pigmented Lesion Above Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Eyebrow” strongly imply that Roosevelt (FDR) had a melanoma. The authors encountered a problem that historians have faced over the years. Namely, there is no histologic proof that the lesion involving FDR's left eyebrow was a melanoma.

Roosevelt's pigmented lesion extended from the lower part of the forehead to the base of the eyebrow. The pigmented area in the photographs is reported by the authors to “show considerable variation in intensity.”1(p329) This marked variation in the degree of pigmentation indicates that the various photographs were retouched at the time they were taken. This is particularly noticeable in Figure 3 of the Ackerman and Lomazow article,1 a photograph taken in August 1938, which demonstrates a very dark brown pigmented deposition in the arciform portion of the lesion located directly in the center of the left eyebrow. I am unaware of other photographs that show the same high degree of pigmentation in the eyebrow, which raises the possibility that this pigmented area in the center of the eyebrow may have been darkened.

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