Pigmented (melanotic) neurofibroma: a clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical analysis of 19 lesions from 17 patients

Am J Surg Pathol. 2000 Mar;24(3):331-43. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200003000-00001.


Neurofibromas with melanin-laden pigmented cells are rare, accounting for less than 1% of all neurofibromas accessioned to the Soft Tissue Registry of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology between the years 1970 and 1996. This study analyzes the clinicopathologic features associated with 19 specimens removed from 17 patients. Eleven males and six females, ranging in age from 2 to 61 years (median, 28 years), participated in the study. Nine of 15 patients whose race was provided were black. Eight patients (47%) are known to have neurofibromatosis, and two others (12%) are strongly suspected of having this disorder; two patients have similarly affected family members. Eight patients were noted to have multiple skin tumors, and in each of two cases, two pigmented neurofibromas were available for review. Two patients had hypertrichosis and cutaneous hyperpigmentation resembling a hairy nevus, and one had a café au lait spot directly overlying a pigmented neurofibroma. Tumors ranged in size from 1.7 to 50 cm in greatest dimension and involved the buttock or leg (n = 6), head or neck (n = 8), trunk (n = 2), wrist or hand (n = 2), and an unspecified site (n = 1). The neurofibromas exhibited diffuse (n = 15), combined diffuse and plexiform (n = 2), combined diffuse and intraneural epithelioid (n = 1), and nonspecific (n = 1) growth patterns. The process involved the skin (n = 14), subcutis (n = 18), and/or skeletal muscle (n = 3). Wagner-Meissner-like bodies were identified in 11 tumors, and mitoses (average, less than one mitosis per 10 high-power fields) were present in three lesions. All examples contained scattered pigmented cells with dendritic, tadpole-shaped, spindled or epithelioid morphology. These cells were positive with Fontana-Masson (nine of nine) and Warthin-Starry (pH, 3.2; four of four) stains, and were depigmented with a melanin bleach method (two of two). An iron stain was negative. The tumors had immunoreactivity for S-100 protein (11 of 11), HMB-45 ( 10 of 11), Melan-A (four of four), tyrosinase (four of four), and CD34 (four of four). Although recurrences are documented, none of the tumors are known to have undergone malignant transformation. A pigmented neurofibroma can be confused with a pigmented dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (Bednár tumor) because the melanin-laden cells of both processes are similar. However, the latter entity exhibits a more extensive storiform growth, has greater immunoreactivity for CD34, and lacks a diffuse proliferation of S-100 protein-positive Schwann cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibroma / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology*