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Acta Vet Scand. 2009 Dec 18;51:54. doi: 10.1186/1751-0147-51-54.

Oral malignant melanomas and other head and neck neoplasms in Danish dogs--data from the Danish Veterinary Cancer Registry.

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Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Dyrlaegevej 16, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark.



Head and neck cancers (HNC) are relatively common and often very serious diseases in both dogs and humans. Neoplasms originating in the head and neck region are a heterogeneous group. HNC often has an unfavourable prognosis and the proximity of the tissue structures renders extirpation of tumours with sufficient margins almost incompatible with preservation of functionality. In humans oral malignant melanoma (OMM) is extremely rare, but represents a particular challenge since it is highly aggressive as is the canine counterpart, which thus may be of interest as a spontaneous animal model.


Canine cases entered in the Danish Veterinary Cancer Registry (DVCR) from May 15th 2005 through February 29th 2008 were included in this study. Fisher's exact test was used to compare proportions of HNC in dogs and humans as well as proportions of surgically treated cases of OMM and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Also the proportions of benign and malignant neoplasms of different locations in dogs were compared using Fisher's exact test.


A total of 1768 cases of neoplasias (679 malignant, 826 benign, 263 unknown) were submitted. Of all neoplasias HNC accounted for 7.2% (n = 128). Of these, 64 (50%) were malignant and 44 (34%) benign. The most common types of malignant neoplasia were SCC (18; 28% of malignant), OMM (13; 20% of malignant), soft tissue sarcoma (11; 17% of malignant) and adenocarcinoma (5; 11% of malignant). The most common types of benign neoplasms were adenoma (7; 16% of benign), polyps (6; 14% of benign) and fibroma (5; 11% of benign).


In the current study, the proportion of neoplasia in the head and neck region in dogs in Denmark was similar to other canine studies and significantly more common than in humans with a large proportion of malignancies. Spontaneous HNC in dogs thus, may serve as a model for HNC in humans.Canine OMM is a spontaneous cancer in an outbred, immune-competent large mammal population and could be a clinical model for OMM in humans.

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