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Small cell malignant melanoma: a variant of naevoid melanoma. Clinicopathological features and histological differential diagnosis
  1. K Blessing1,
  2. J J H Grant5,
  3. D S A Sanders2,
  4. M M Kennedy3,
  5. A Husain4,
  6. P Coburn
  1. 1Department of Pathology, Aberdeen University, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK
  2. 2Department of Pathology, Birmingham University, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Heartlands Hospital, Bordesly Green East, Birmingham B9 5SS, UK
  4. 4Department of Pathology, Middlesborough General Hospital, Cleveland TS5 5AZ, UK
  5. 5Departments of Pathology and Dermatology, Worthing Hospital, Sussex, BN11 2DH UK
  1. Dr Blessing email: k.blessing{at}


Aims—To describe the clinical and histopathological features of a rare variant of naevoid melanoma, small cell melanoma, and discuss the histological differential diagnoses.

Methods—The clinical and histological features of cases of malignant melanoma with the histological features of small (non-Merkel like) melanoma were reviewed and documented. In addition, five cases had available material for immunohistochemistry and this was performed using antibodies to the S100 protein and melan-A, and the HMB-45 antibody.

Results—There were 15 cases of small cell melanoma from 14 (10 female, four male) patients, aged between 30 and 77 (mean, 48.6) years. The trunk was the most common location. In more than half the cases, the provisional diagnosis was melanoma/borderline lesion. All shared similar histological appearances of an intraepidermal component of in situ melanoma and a dermal component of nests of cells with hyperchromatic nuclei and scanty cytoplasm, usually in tightly packed nests. All components (junctional and intradermal) of the lesions investigated by immunohistochemistry were positive both for S100 protein and melan-A. All junctional components were positive with HMB-45, but with variable staining of the dermal components with this antibody.

Conclusions—Small cell malignant melanoma is postulated to be a distinct histopathological entity and a rare variant of naevoid melanoma. Such lesions can be difficult to interpret and easily missed at scanning magnification because the cells of the dermal component mimic benign naevus cells.

  • malignant melanoma
  • naevoid melanoma
  • small cell melanoma

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