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Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2003 Mar;22(1):33-41.

Current diagnostic problems in melanoma pathology.

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Department of Pathology, University Medical Center Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The histopathological diagnosis of cutaneous melanocytic lesions may be difficult to assess. Frequently encountered diagnostic problems include: 1) Dysplastic nevus or melanoma in situ?; 2) Melanoma in situ or superficial spreading melanoma?; 3) Lentigo maligna or lentigo maligna melanoma?; 4) Compound nevocellular nevus or nevoid melanoma?; and 5) Spitz nevus or Spitzoid melanoma? Moreover, less frequently encountered diagnostic challenges are discussed: 1) Deep penetrating nevus or nodular melanoma?; and 2) Cellular blue nevus or melanoma metastasis? In this contribution, these problems are discussed after a systematic approach involving a concise histopathological description of the classic lesions considered in the differential diagnoses, a presentation of the deviating histopathological features that give rise to the diagnostic problems, and finally diagnostic recommendations on the classification of the problematic lesions. We also briefly discuss the contribution of additional immunohistochemistry and molecular pathology in aiding to establish a correct diagnosis.

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