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Italian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology 2021 June;156(3):300-21

DOI: 10.23736/S2784-8671.21.06958-3


language: English

Histopathologic classification and prognostic factors of melanoma: a 2021 update

Mattheos BOBOS

Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Health Sciences, International Hellenic University, Alexandrian Campus, Sindos, Thessaloniki, Greece

Despite the rapid recent advances in molecular analysis of tumors, which allow large-scale and high-resolution genomics, the “gold standard” for melanoma diagnosis continues to be histopathology, in conjunction with clinical characteristics and sometimes with important support of immunohistochemistry. Observations, where postulated that cutaneous melanomas may arise through two distinct pathways, discoveries such as that BRAFV600E mutations were mostly common in melanomas on sun-exposed skin with little solar elastosis and seminal works for melanoma progression and evolution set the groundwork for the new WHO Classification of Melanoma: a classification of melanoma that not only encompasses histologic but also clinical, epidemiologic, and genetic characteristics. The melanomas were divided into those etiologically related to sun exposure and those that are not, based on their mutational signatures, anatomic site, and epidemiology. On the basis of degree of associated solar elastosis melanomas on the sun exposed skin were further divided by the histopathologic degree of cumulative solar damage (CSD) of the surrounding skin, into low and high CSD. On the low-CSD group of melanomas are included superficial spreading melanomas, while the high-CSD melanomas encompasses lentigo maligna and desmoplastic melanomas. The “non-CSD” classification includes acral melanomas, some melanomas in congenital nevi, melanomas in blue nevi, Spitz melanomas, mucosal melanomas, and uveal melanomas. Nodular and nevoid melanoma may occur in any pathway. A group of intermediate tumors termed melanocytoma is proposed for tumors that in addition to mutations that activate the MAPK pathway, harbor multiple driver mutations, and they are either low-grade or high-grade, to indicate that they may carry a higher risk of malignant transformation. In this review a summary of the most recent WHO classification of melanoma is provided. A short analysis of essential histopathologic prognostic parameters is also provided. The new classification of melanoma discriminates distinct types of melanoma based on their clinicopathologic, and genomic characteristics. Undoubtedly, melanoma research will continue to evolve as new clinical, pathological, molecular data accumulates. The challenge of the forthcoming years is to better characterize the intermediate category of melanocytic lesions.

KEY WORDS: Melanoma; Skin neoplasms; Lentigo; Prognosis

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