Pediatric melanomas often mimic benign skin lesions: A retrospective study

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


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.


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.


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.


Sample size and retrospective design are limitations.


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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