The implications of a dermatopathologist’s report on melanoma diagnosis and treatment


An accurate and comprehensive histopathology report is essential for cutaneous melanoma management, providing critical information for accurate staging and risk estimation and determining the optimal surgical approach. In many institutions, a review of melanoma biopsy specimens by expert dermatopathologists is considered a necessary step. This study examined these reviews to determine the critical primary histopathology Breslow score in which a histopathology review would be most beneficial. Histopathology reports of patients referred to our institute between January 2011 and September 2019 were compared with our in-house review conducted by an expert dermatopathologist. The review focused on assessing fundamental histologic and clinical prognostic features. A total of 177 specimens underwent histopathology review. Significant changes in the Breslow index were identified in 103 cases (58.2%). Notably, in many of these cases (73.2%), the revised Breslow was higher than the initially reported score. Consequently, the T-stage was modified in 51 lesions (28.8%). Substantial discordance rates were observed in Tis (57%), T1b (59%), T3a (67%) and T4a (50%) classifications. The revised histopathology reports resulted in alterations to the surgical plan in 15.3% of the cases. These findings emphasize the importance of having all routine pathologies of pigmented lesions referred to a dedicated cancer center and reviewed by an experienced dermatopathologist. This recommendation is particularly crucial in instances where the histopathology review can potentially alter the diagnosis and treatment plan, such as in melanoma in situ and thinner melanomas measuring 0.6–2.2 mm in thickness. Our study highlights the significant impact of histopathology reviews in cutaneous melanoma cases. The observed changes in Breslow scores and subsequent modifications in T-stage classification underline the need for thorough evaluation by an expert dermatopathologist, especially in cases of melanoma in situ and thin melanomas. Incorporating such reviews into routine practice within dedicated cancer centers can improve diagnostic accuracy and guide appropriate treatment decisions, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.


melanoma, dermatopathology, histopathology review, Breslow’s depth

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