Small cell variant of malignant melanoma masquerading as lymphoma on fine-needle aspiration cytology: a case report

Diagn Cytopathol. 2012 Jul;40(7):619-23. doi: 10.1002/dc.21633. Epub 2011 Apr 6.


The morphologic and immunohistochemical diversity of malignant melanoma is well known to pathologists but despite this widespread awareness the diagnosis remains a constant challenge, particularly when a noncutaneous or metastatic tumor is evaluated by fine-needle aspiration cytology. We present a case of the small cell variant of malignant melanoma mimicking lymphoma in a 78-year-old previously healthy male who presented with multiple pulmonary masses and a right-sided pleural effusion. This particular case was also immunoreactive for the hematopoietic marker CD43, a feature not previously reported in malignant melanoma. Cytologic, histologic, and immunohistochemical features of this case are presented and discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle / methods
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / diagnosis*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology
  • Leukosialin / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Leukosialin
  • SPN protein, human