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J Dermatol. 2008 Nov;35(11):695-703. doi: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.2008.00551.x.

Subungual melanoma: histological examination of 50 cases from early stage to bone invasion.

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Department of Diagnostic Pathology, Tokyo Medical University, Tokyo, Japan.


Subungual melanoma is a rare form of malignant melanoma. It is extremely difficult to differentiate it histologically from benign melanonychia striata or melanocytic nevus, especially in the early stage. We divided 50 cases of subungual melanoma into four groups according to clinical progress, and examined their histological findings in each respective stage. In the early stage (19 cases), atypical melanocytes were polygonal showing slight nuclear atypia with no mitoses at all. In six out of 19 cases (31.6%), the atypical melanocytes proliferated more in the hyponychium than in the nail matrix, and only very few in the nail bed. Periungual pigmentation (Hutchinson's sign) appeared from the early stage in almost all cases. With stage progression (middle stage, 13 cases; progressive stage, 13 cases; and bone invasive stage, five cases) the number of atypical melanocytes and their degree of nuclear atypia increased, and the ascent of atypical melanocytes and pagetoid spread became conspicuous. Mitoses became apparent only from the progressive stage. From these observations, we would like to propose three new pathological clues of early stage subungual melanoma: (i) "skip lesion", proliferation of the tumor cells are more prominent in the hyponychium than in the nail bed or nail matrix; (ii) histological confirmation of Hutchinson's sign; and (iii) epithelial thickening and/or compact arrangement of the elongated basal cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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