Dermatologists discover world’s smallest skin cancer

Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) dermatologists have been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records after dermatologists discovered the smallest skin cancer ever detected, according to a press release published by OHSU on May 1.

Doctors say a tiny spot was discovered on a patient's cheek measuring just 0.65 millimeters or 0.025 inches. 

It was nearly invisible to the human eye but with state-of-the-art non-invasive technology, dermatologists were able to confirm the spot was melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. 

The patient, Christy Staats, told OHSU doctors that she had been concerned about a red spot on her face for several years but other dermatologists could not determine that it was a form of skin cancer. 

"During COVID, I started to think about my health a little more," she says. "I have a magnifying mirror in my bathroom and noticed the spot I was worried about was way bigger and had a ‘leg’ on it. I set up an appointment to get it looked at."

After finally seeing Alexander Witkowski, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the OHSU School of Medicine, Witkowski was able to determine that the red spot was actually a cherry angioma, a common and benign skin growth. 

But during the appointment, Witkowski noticed a tiny spot near Staats' right cheek. 

"I took a picture of the spot with the Sklip smartphone attachment, then performed additional imaging with reflectance confocal microscopy (virtual biopsy) which showed atypical cells concerning for melanoma," he says. "I told Christy right there at the bedside, ‘I think this could be the smallest skin cancer ever detected.’" 

Catching this skin cancer early earned the OHSU team the Guinness World Record for the "Smallest Detected Skin Cancer." 

"We were able to get the smallest known skin cancer biopsied and removed without any consequence to that patient, other than a little tiny scar. So, amazing," said Sancy Leachman, chair of the Department of Dermatology at OHSU.