Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 19–32 | Cite as

Causation and melanoma classification

  • Brendan Clarke


In this article, I begin by giving a brief history of melanoma causation. I then discuss the current manner in which malignant melanoma is classified. In general, these systems of classification do not take account of the manner of tumour causation. Instead, they are based on phenomenological features of the tumour, such as size, spread, and morphology. I go on to suggest that misclassification of melanoma is a major problem in clinical practice. I therefore outline an alternative means of classifying these tumours based on causal factors. By analogy with similar systems that have recently emerged for other cancers, I suggest that this causal classification is likely to be both workable and helpful, even in the absence of a full causal-mechanistic understanding of the aetiology of the tumour.


Melanoma Classification Causation Mechanism 



This paper was originally presented at the Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable event at the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) in Rotterdam on October 19, 2009. I am grateful to all those whose penetrating questions—in particular, of Raffaella Campaner, Jan Vandenbroucke, and three anonymous reviewers—helped to shape this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology StudiesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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