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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2010 Dec;134(12):1770-7. doi: 10.1043/2009-0612-RAR.1.

Histologically ambiguous ("borderline") primary cutaneous melanocytic tumors: approaches to patient management including the roles of molecular testing and sentinel lymph node biopsy.

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Melanoma Institute Australia, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


It is well recognized that the pathologic diagnosis of melanocytic tumors can sometimes be difficult. For some atypical melanocytic tumors that do not display clear-cut features of malignancy, it may be difficult or impossible to exclude a diagnosis of melanoma; this includes those showing some resemblance to Spitz nevi, blue nevi, deep penetrating nevi, and possible nevoid melanomas. When there is uncertainty about whether a primary melanocytic tumor is a nevus or a melanoma, we recommend that a second opinion be sought from one or more experienced colleagues. If diagnostic uncertainty persists, the evidence for or against the various differential diagnostic considerations should be presented in the pathology report and a "most likely" or "favored" diagnosis given. Molecular testing of the primary tumor by using techniques such as comparative genomic hybridization or fluorescence in situ hybridization may assist in establishing a diagnosis of melanoma if multiple chromosomal aberrations are identified. However, these tests require further independent validation and are not widely available at present. Complete excision of the lesion is probably mandatory, but plans for further management should be formulated on a case-by-case basis. While the safest course of action will usually be to manage the tumor as if it were a melanoma (taking into account the tumor's thickness and other prognostic variables), this may not always be appropriate, particularly if it is located in a cosmetically sensitive site such as the face. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the surgical oncologist to convey the diagnostic uncertainty to patients and to present them with management choices so that they can decide whether they wish to be managed aggressively (as for a melanoma) or conservatively. While a sentinel lymph node biopsy may be recommended on the basis of the primary tumor characteristics, the clinical significance of lymph node involvement for these tumors is not yet clear, and it may not have the same prognostic implications as nodal involvement from an unequivocal "conventional" melanoma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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