Clear-Cell Melanocytic Lesions With Balloon-Cell and Sebocyte-like Melanocytes: A Unifying Concept

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Melanocytes may assume unique shapes and sizes but rarely have clear cytoplasm. We studied 28 melanocytic lesions that contained clear-cell melanocytes of the balloon-cell and sebocyte-like types. Clear-cell melanocytes were found more commonly in females (64%) than in males (36%), with predominance in females younger than 50 years (79%) and predominance in males older than 50 years (67%). They were distributed evenly throughout the body but were not found on acral sites. Clear-cell melanocytes were most prevalent in congenital nevi (18 or 72%) but were also found in 5 Clark nevi, 2 Meischer nevi, 1 Unna nevus, 1 atypical intra-epidermal proliferation, and 1 melanoma. The clear cells were distributed diffusely in 86% of the lesions and focally in 14%. The overall percentage of clear-cell melanocytes was 56%. The percentage of balloon cells was 57% and sebocyte-like melanocytes 32%. Clear cells with morphologic features of both balloon cells and sebocyte-like melanocytes, that is, intermediate cells, were present in all lesions with an overall percentage of 12%. The presence of melanocytes of both the balloon-cell and sebocyte-like types and the finding of clear-cell melanocytes with intermediate features in all lesions lends support to the theory that balloon-cell and sebocyte-like melanocytes may represent morphologic expressions of the same alteration in melanogenesis.

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