Primary Melanoma of the Skin and Cutaneous Melanomatous Metastases: Comparative Histologic Features and Immunophenotypes

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Through careful clinicopathologic correlation, we identified 37 metastatic melanomas in the skin, all of which had intraepidermal components. These were compared with 43 microscopically similar primary melanomas with a predetermined panel of immunostains in general use in surgical pathology, including bcl-2 protein, mutant p53 protein, Ki-67 (MIB-1), proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), α-isoform actin, and CD117 (c-kit protein). There was no significant difference in bcl-2 or α-isoform actin staining patterns of primary vs secondary cutaneous melanomas. The expression of Ki-67 generally was higher in metastatic melanomas than in primary lesions, and the same was true of mutant p53 protein labeling; however, some overlap was observed. CD117 staining was retained in 65% of metastatic melanomas (24/37) when they originated from ocular primary tumors; nevertheless, that marker was lost in virtually all of the other metastatic melanocytic neoplasms, whereas primary melanomas demonstrated consistent reactivity for c-kit protein. Although they are not definitive, these trends in immunoreactivity could facilitate the process of distinguishing the multiple primary melanoma syndrome from melanomatous metastases to the skin. That undertaking is best approached with circumspection, because clinicopathologic discriminators for this diagnostic separation are still imperfect.

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