Morphologic diversity in malignant melanomas

Am J Clin Pathol. 1990 Jun;93(6):731-40. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/93.6.731.


A review was conducted of 335 malignant melanomas to identify variant morphologic patterns that might be confused with other tumors. In all, 27 predominantly amelanotic neoplasms with unusual histologic features were selected for additional study. These included nine with an adenoid or pseudopapillary pattern, seven small cell neoplasms, five with prominent myxoid stroma, four with a hemangiopericytoma-like appearance, and two composed of neoplastic cells with a signet-ring configuration. A diagnosis of melanoma was confirmed in all cases by Fontana-Masson strains for melanin pigment, electron microscopic examination, or the results of immunohistochemical analyses for cytokeratin, vimentin, S-100 protein, and the HMB-45 antigen. One tumor was associated with a congenital hairy melanocytic nevus, five were vulvovaginal lesions, four arose in the sinonasal tract, and one occurred in the rectum. Four of the specified microscopic patterns were observed in both primary and secondary neoplasms; the two signet-ring cell melanomas were recurrent lesions. The authors conclude that malignant melanomas may assume the histologic guise of adenocarcinomas, small cell carcinomas, and sarcomas, in a variety of tissue sites. Special studies designed to detect melanocytic differentiation are therefore appropriate in diverse differential diagnostic settings.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Melanoma / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology