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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Jun;46(6):874-9.

Cutaneous melanoma in childhood and adolescence: an analysis of 36 patients.

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Department of Dermatology and Allergology and Tumor Registry, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.


Analysis of data of 6931 patients with cutaneous melanoma seen at the Department of Dermatology and Allergology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich between 1977 and 1998 identified 36 patients in whom cutaneous melanomas developed during childhood or adolescence (age <18 years). Clinical courses of all patients and histopathologic characteristics of the lesions were reviewed. Seventeen patients were boys and 19 patients were girls. The median ages of the boys and girls were 15 and 16 years, respectively (range, 2-17 years). Thirty-one patients presented with nonmetastatic primary melanomas and 5 patients presented with metastatic melanoma. Forty-seven percent of the primary lesions were associated with a nevus (22% with congenital nevi and 25% with acquired nevi). Tumor thickness ranged from 0.24 to 7.0 mm, with a median of 1.29 mm (mean, 1.67 mm). All patients with primary melanomas received surgical therapy; patients with metastatic disease received chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Relative 5-year survival was 87.5% for the group of patients younger than 18 years. Similar to experience in adult patients, survival strongly correlated with tumor thickness and clinical stage at the time of diagnosis. The data emphasize that a high index of suspicion for cutaneous melanoma is needed by clinicians assessing melanocytic lesions in children and adolescents for early diagnosis. Reduction of the melanoma mortality rate in children and adolescents will be achieved through identification of patients at increased risk.

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