Purpose: The vascular supply of the primary tumor is recognized to play an important role in the progression of a number of solid tumors. However, the role of tumor vascularity in the prognostic assessment of melanoma remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine the prognostic impact of patterns of vascularity on the outcome associated with cutaneous melanoma.
Patients and methods: Tumor vascularity was documented prospectively using routine histopathologic analysis of 417 primary cutaneous melanomas from the University of California at San Francisco Melanoma Center database. Four patterns of tumor vascularity were recorded: absent, sparse, moderate, and prominent.
Results: Increasing tumor vascularity significantly increased the risk of relapse and death associated with melanoma, corresponding to reduced relapse-free and overall survival. By multivariate analysis, tumor vascularity was the most important determinant of overall survival, surpassing tumor thickness. Increasing tumor vascularity was associated with increased incidence of ulceration in the primary tumor.
Conclusion: Tumor vascularity is an important prognostic factor in melanoma, rivaling tumor thickness. Increasing tumor vascularity is highly correlated with ulceration, possibly helping to explain the biologic basis of this known prognostic factor.