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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Jul;81(1):204-212. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2019.01.051. Epub 2019 Apr 20.

Comparison of surgical margins for lentigo maligna versus melanoma in situ.

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Zitelli and Brodland PC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Electronic address:
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Zitelli and Brodland PC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.



Multiple studies have shown a 5-mm surgical margin to be inadequate for excision of melanoma in situ. Some have suggested that a wider margin is needed only for the lentigo maligna subtype.


To compare subclinical extension of lentigo maligna with that of melanoma in situ. The secondary objective was to investigate the effect of other factors on extent of subclinical extension.


A prospectively collected series of noninvasive melanomas was studied. Original pathology reports were used to identify lentigo maligna and compare data for that subtype with data for the remaining melanomas in situ.


A total of 1506 lentigo maligna cases and 829 melanomas in situ were included. To obtain a 97% clearance rate, both lentigo maligna and melanoma in situ required a 12-mm margin on the head and neck and a 9-mm margin on the trunk and extremities. Only 79% of lentigo maligna and 83% of melanoma in situ were successfully excised with a 6-mm margin (P = .12). Local recurrence was identified in 0.26% (5 facial, 1 scalp, and 1 acral), with a mean follow-up time of 5.7 years.


Margins less than 6 mm were not studied. The use of lentigo maligna diagnosis was not used by all dermatopathologists consistently. The degree of surrounding photodamage was not assessed.


Subclinical extension of lentigo maligna and melanoma in situ are similar. Standard surgical excision of all melanoma in situ subtypes, including lentigo maligna, should include at least 9 mm of normal-appearing skin, which is similar to the amount recommended for early invasive melanoma. Lesions on the head and neck or those with a diameter greater than 1 cm may require even wider margins and are best treated with Mohs micrographic surgery. The perception that lentigo maligna has wider subclinical extension may be related to its frequent location on the head and neck, where photodamage can camouflage the clinical border.


Mohs micrographic surgery; excision; guidelines; lentigo maligna; melanoma; melanoma in situ


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