Sophie Spitz (1910 – 1956) was an American pathologist.

  • Born 4 February 1910 in Nashville, Tennessee
  • 1929 – BA, Vanderbilt University
  • 1932 – MD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • 1942 – Married fellow pathologist Arthur Allen (1910-1994) with whom she authored several publications
  • 1942-1945 Joined the Army Institute of Pathology
  • Pathologist at Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases in New York City
  • Director of the pathology department, New York Infirmary
  • Died 11 August 1956 from colon cancer

Medical Eponyms
Spitz nevus (1948)

Rare benign melanocytic lesion, that shares significant clinical and histological features of melanoma. [aka *juvenile melanoma; spindle and epithelioid cell naevus; Spitz naevus; ]

In 1948, Spitz published Melanomas of childhood, in the American Journal of Pathology. The paper challenged prevailing concepts concerning the pathology of nevi and melanomas. Spitz’s study reviewed lesions that were histologically diagnosed as malignant melanoma in children which had morphologic features distinctive from those occurring in adults. Spitz described histologic characteristics of the lesions she termed juvenile melanomas including:

  1. Epidermal changes such as parakeratosis and acanthosis 
  2. Presence of large acidophilic pigmented cells containing vesicular nuclei or spindle cells in the spindle cell type 
  3. Presence of giant cells either multinuclear or mononuclear, with oval or round acidophilic cytoplasm 
  4. Occasional mitotic figures 
  5. Pigment mainly located in the superficial part of the lesion 
  6. Inflammatory changes 
  7. Edema 
  8. Vascular ectasia in the papillary dermis 

Spitz specifically highlighted that the presence of giant cells as the only feature that permitted a histologic distinction from adult melanoma:

The juvenile melanoma may be distinguished histologically from adult melanoma in about one-half the cases by the presence of giant cells in the former which seldom occur in the latter.

Spitz 1948

In 1967, the Pathology Committee of the Queensland Melanoma Project, chaired by Vincent J. McGovern, published a standardized nomenclature and classification for
moles and malignant melanomas in which it recommended the use of the name “Spitz naevus,” instead of juvenile melanoma.

Key Medical Contributions

Spitz was a strong proponent of the new cervical screening test devised by Dr. George Papanicolaou, at a time the medical community rejected his work. Dr. Spitz maintained a strong interest in the prevention of cervical cancer throughout her professional life. She wrote papers in Cancer on the carcinogenic action of benzidine and on the histopathologic effects of nitrogen mustards. The article on benzidine was the first to prove the carcinogenic potential of aromatic amines used in the dye industry, now a well-recognized cause of human bladder cancer.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

Studied at University of Leeds-MBChB and Microbiology in Relation to Medicine BSc. British doctor currently working in Emergency Medicine in Perth, Australia.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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