Pediatric melanomas often mimic benign skin lesions: A retrospective study

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Abstract

Background:

Childhood melanoma can be misdiagnosed because of its rarity and atypical presentation.

Objective:

We sought to correlate the clinical appearance of pediatric melanomas with Breslow depth and clinical behavior, and to identify diagnostic errors made by dermatologists and nondermatologist physicians.

Methods:

This was a retrospective review of Mayo Clinic records of children and young adults 21 years of age or younger with a diagnosis of primary cutaneous melanoma between January 2000 and January 2015.

Results:

Pediatric melanomas that mimicked benign skin lesions were more often deeper (>1 mm; odds ratio 5.48; P = .002) and had a higher T stage (odds ratio [T2, T3, or T4] 6.28; P = .001) than melanomas with a clinically malignant appearance. Of pediatric melanomas, 66% originally diagnosed as benign melanocytic lesions exhibited changes in size, shape, and color.

Limitations:

Sample size and retrospective design are limitations.

Conclusions:

Benign-appearing pediatric skin lesions with a history of evolution, bleeding, or ulceration should raise suspicion for melanoma. Melanomas demonstrating these features are associated with a higher Breslow depth and T stage. Although biopsy of all lesions that exhibit change in children is not practical, safe, or desired, close monitoring is recommended.

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