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Pathology. 2004 Oct;36(5):419-27.

Combined naevus: a benign lesion frequently misdiagnosed both clinically and pathologically as melanoma.

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Department of Anatomical Pathology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, Australia.



Combined naevi are characterised pathologically by the presence of two or more different types of melanocytic naevi in a single lesion. They are prone to clinical and pathological misdiagnosis as melanoma. Misdiagnosis may result in inappropriate treatment, patient anxiety and medicolegal consequences.


With the aim of reducing the incidence of misdiagnosis, this study documents the clinical and pathological features of a large series of combined naevi and describes how to distinguish them from melanoma.


The slides of skin lesions from 220 patients that were coded as combined naevus between 1990 and 2001 were retrieved from the archival files of the Department of Anatomical Pathology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia. The clinical notes, letters from referring pathologists (for consultation cases) and slides were reviewed and for each lesion clinical and pathological features were assessed. Thirty-eight cases were excluded either because they included only one naevus component or because there were atypical pathological features in the slides available for review. The remaining 182 cases formed the study population.


The patients included 92 females and 87 males (1.1:1). In three cases the gender was not known. Mean and median patient ages were 29.6 and 28 years, respectively. The anatomical site of involvement was the trunk in 64 cases (35.2%), head and neck region in 43 cases (23.6%), upper extremity in 40 cases (22.0%), lower extremity in 18 cases (9.9%) and perineum and buttock region in eight cases (4.4%). In nine cases the site of involvement was not known. A pre-operative clinical diagnosis was recorded in 126 cases; of these, melanoma was suspected clinically in 33 cases (26.2%) while combined naevus was diagnosed clinically in only three cases (2.4%). Histologically, 180 cases included two different naevus components, and in two cases three different naevus components were present. The most common combination was a common acquired naevus of compound type associated with a blue naevus of deep penetrating naevus type; this occurred in 57 cases (31.3%). The referring pathologist recorded a preferred diagnosis in 88 of 122 consultation cases; of these, melanoma was suspected in 23 cases (26.1%) and in 23 cases combined naevus was favoured (26.1%).


Combined naevus is an uncommon type of melanocytic naevus that is frequently misdiagnosed both clinically and pathologically. Knowledge and recognition of the pathological features of combined naevi and the important features that distinguish them from melanomas should reduce the frequency of misdiagnosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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