Primary mucosal melanomas arise from melanocytes located in mucosal membranes lining respiratory, gastrointestinal and urogenital tract. Although a majority of mucosal melanomas originate from the mucosa of the nasal cavity and accessory sinuses, oral cavity, anorectum, vulva and vagina, they can arise in almost any part of mucosal membranes. Most of mucosal melanomas occur in occult sites, which together with the lack of early and specific signs contribute to late diagnosis, and poor prognosis. Because of their rareness the knowledge about their pathogenesis and risk factors is insufficient, and also there are not well established protocols for staging and treatment of mucosal melanomas. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment, with trends toward more conservative treatment since radical surgery did not show an advantage for survival. Radiotherapy can provide better local control in some locations, but did not show improvement in survival. There is no effective systemic therapy for these aggressive tumors. Compared with cutaneous and ocular melanoma, mucosal melanomas have lowest percent of five-year survival. Recently revealed molecular changes underlying mucosal melanomas offer new hope for development of more effective systemic therapy for mucosal melanomas. Herein we presented a comprehensive review of various locations of primary melanoma along mucosal membranes, their epidemiological and clinical features, and treatment options. We also gave a short comparison of some characteristics of cutaneous and mucosal melanomas.
Keywords: Mucosal melanoma; gastrointestinal; respiratory; urogenital.