Investigative Report

Early Stages of Melanoma on the Limbs of High-risk Patients: Clinical, Dermoscopic, Reflectance Confocal Microscopy and Histopathological Characterization for Improved Recognition

Cristina Carrera, Josep Palou, Josep Malvehy, Sonia Segura, Paula Aguilera, Gabriel Salerni, Louise Lovatto, Joan Puig-Butille, Llucia Alós, Susana Puig
DOI: 10.2340/00015555-1021


Early stages of 36 melanomas on limbs were morphologically characterised. Most occurred in high-risk patients (multiple and/or familial melanoma) attending a referral unit for melanoma and pigmented lesions. None of the tumours was clinically suspicious for melanoma (mean diameter of 4.3 mm). The tumours were classified into four dermoscopic groups: (i) prominent network (n = 16); (ii) delicate network (n = 5); (iii) hypo-pigmentation with dotted vessels (n = 10); and (iv) diffuse light pigmentation with perifollicular pigmentation (n = 5). Confocal microscopy performed in 12 cases allowed the identification of atypical, single cells within epidermal layers. Histopathology showed marked large atypical cells in a pagetoid spreading pattern in most cases. Significant associations were detected between the third dermoscopic group and naevoid histological appearance and delay in detection, and between the fourth group and lentigo-maligna-like features. Dermoscopy allowed an increase in the suspicious
threshold in these difficult melanomas in high-risk
patients and enabled the subclassification of early melanomas on the limbs, with a correct confocal and histopatho­logical correlation. Although the biological behaviour of these incipient tumours remains uncertain, the most appropriate treatment seems to be recognition and proper excision.