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Br J Dermatol. 2007 Jun;156(6):1287-94.

Genetic and epigenetic alterations in the differential diagnosis of malignant melanoma and spitzoid lesion.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Shinshu University School of Medicine, Asahi 3-1-1, Matsumoto 390-8621, Japan.



The histopathological differentiation of malignant melanoma and Spitz naevus often presents diagnostic problems.


We aimed to find out applicable diagnostic parameters other than routine pathology.


The cases included conventional melanomas and Spitz naevi as well as atypical spitzoid lesions that had posed diagnostic difficulties. We examined hotspots of mutation in the BRAF, NRAS and HRAS genes by polymerase chain reaction-based direct sequencing. We also analysed DNA copy number aberrations and the methylation of CpG sequences in several cancer-related genes by utilizing a novel methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification method.


Twenty three of 24 conventional melanomas showed at least one of the genetic and epigenetic alterations examined, although one acral melanoma did not show any alteration. By sharp contrast, 12 Spitz naevi with an unambiguous histopathology showed no or few chromosomal aberrations, no oncogene mutations and no methylation of CpG sequences. Of the 16 ambiguous spitzoid lesions, most of which were designated atypical Spitz tumour by one of the authors, all but one showed no mutations, no methylations and few copy number aberrations. However, three tumours showed copy number loss of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A gene (CDKN2A), an alteration observed frequently in melanomas but not found in conventional Spitz naevi. These results show that, although most atypical Spitz tumours do not differ from conventional Spitz naevi showing virtually no genetic and epigenetic aberrations, some cases may have chromosomal aberrations that include copy number loss of the CDKN2A gene.


Genetic and epigenetic analyses may be useful as an additional diagnostic tool to distinguish between melanoma and Spitz naevus, and may help to define subgroups in atypical Spitz tumours.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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