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Histopathology. 1990 Nov;17(5):397-400.

Epidermal melanocytes adjacent to melanoma and the field change effect.

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Department of Histopathology, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK.


The presence of a field change, affecting epidermal melanocytes in the skin surrounding melanomas, has been cited as a justification for performing radical excision of these lesions. Twenty-five consecutive re-excisions of melanoma specimens were examined and melanocytes per 100 keratinocytes counted continuously across the width of each, in order to ascertain whether melanocyte counts decreased from the centre to the periphery, as would be expected if there were a field change effect associated with the tumour. Melanocyte counts did not appear to diminish with increasing distance from the tumour site and were within the range seen in a previous study in which we demonstrated increased numbers of basal melanocytes and melanocyte atypia in sun-exposed skin from a control population. Melanocyte atypia of a mild degree was present in five of the 25 cases studied, but in no case was this greater than that observed in sun-exposed forearm skin. We therefore suggest that the 'field change effect' in epidermal melanocytes adjacent to melanoma could be a result of chronic sun exposure alone.

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