Critical Analysis of Histologic Criteria for Grading Atypical (Dysplastic) Melanocytic Nevi

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Low concordance in grading atypical (dysplastic) melanocytic nevi (AMN) has been reported, and no systematic evaluation is available. We studied 123 AMN with architectural and cytologic atypia (40 associated with atypical-mole syndrome), classified according to standard criteria by 3 independent observers. Histologic variables included junctional and dermal symmetry, lateral extension, cohesion and migration of epidermal melanocytes, maturation, regression, nuclear features, nuclear grade, melanin, inflammatory infiltrate location, and fibroplasia. AMN (43 junctional and 80 compound) were graded mild (31), moderate (61), and severe (31). AMN-severe correlated with 3 or more nuclear abnormalities (especially pleomorphism, heterogeneous chromatin, and prominent nucleolus) and absence of regression, mixed junctional pattern, and suprabasilar melanocytes on top of lentiginous hyperplasia. AMN-severe diagnostic accuracy was 99.5% using these criteria, but only the absence of nuclear pleomorphism differentiated AMN-mild from AMN-moderate. No architectural features distinguishing AMN-mild from AMN-moderate were selected as significant by the discriminant analysis. AMN from atypical-mole syndrome revealed subtle architectural differences, but none were statistically significant in the discriminant analysis. Histologic criteria can reliably distinguish AMN-severe but fail to differentiate AMN-mild from AMN-moderate. AMN from atypical-mole syndrome cannot be diagnosed using pathologic criteria alone.

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