A theory of site distribution of melanomas: Queensland, Australia

Cancer Causes Control. 1992 Nov;3(6):513-6. doi: 10.1007/BF00052747.


Although sun exposure is believed to be associated causally with cutaneous melanoma, the high incidence on less sun-exposed areas such as the back, as well as on chronically exposed sites such as the face, suggests that the association with sunlight is less straightforward than for other skin cancers. To explain this enigmatic site distribution, a theory of site-dependent susceptibility of melanocytes to malignant transformation is proposed. As possible evidence, all melanomas diagnosed in the state of Queensland, Australia, over a one-year period were surveyed for histologic evidence of benign melanocytic nevus cells adjacent to the melanoma, and analyzed according to anatomic distribution. Results showed a regional variation in the proportion of melanomas with adjacent nevi not explicable by regional variation in nevus density, which suggests that there is a varying susceptibility of nevi to malignant change. Given that nevus cells are equivalent to melanocytes, this finding would support the hypothesis that melanocytes at-large have a differential response to the mitogenic stimulus of sunlight according to anatomic site.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Ear Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Ear Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ear, External / pathology
  • Facial Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Facial Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Melanocytes / pathology
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Multiple Primary / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms, Multiple Primary / pathology*
  • Nevus / epidemiology*
  • Nevus / pathology*
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects