Histopathologic synoptic reporting of invasive melanoma: How reliable are the data?

Cancer. 2021 Sep 1;127(17):3125-3136. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33612. Epub 2021 May 4.


Background: Synoptic reporting is recommended by many guideline committees to encourage the thorough histologic documentation necessary for optimal management of patients with melanoma.

Methods: One hundred fifty-one pathologists from 40 US states interpreted 41 invasive melanoma cases. For each synoptic reporting factor, the authors identified cases with "complete agreement" (all participants recorded the same value) versus any disagreement. Pairwise agreement was calculated for each case as the proportion of pairs of responses that agreed, where paired responses were generated by the comparison of each reviewer's response with all others.

Results: There was complete agreement among all reviewers for 22 of the 41 cases (54%) on Breslow thickness dichotomized at 0.8 mm, with pairwise agreement ranging from 49% to 100% across the 41 cases. There was complete agreement for "no ulceration" in 24 of the 41 cases (59%), with pairwise agreement ranging from 42% to 100%. Tumor transected at base had complete agreement for 26 of the 41 cases (63%), with pairwise agreement ranging from 31% to 100%. Mitotic rate, categorized as 0/mm2 , 1/mm2 , or 2/mm2 , had complete agreement for 17 of the 41 cases (41%), with pairwise agreement ranging from 36% to 100%. Regression saw complete agreement for 14 of 41 cases (34%), with pairwise agreement ranging from 40% to 100%. Lymphovascular invasion, perineural invasion, and microscopic satellites were rarely reported as present. Respectively, these prognostic factors had complete agreement for 32 (78%), 37 (90%), and 18 (44%) of the 41 cases, and the ranges of pairwise agreement were 47% to 100%, 70% to 100%, and 53% to 100%, respectively.

Conclusions: These findings alert pathologists and clinicians to the problem of interobserver variability in recording critical prognostic factors.

Lay summary: This study addresses variability in the assessment and reporting of critical characteristics of invasive melanomas that are used by clinicians to guide patient care. The authors characterize the diagnostic variability among pathologists and their reporting methods in light of recently updated national guidelines. Results demonstrate considerable variability in the diagnostic reporting of melanoma with regard to the following: Breslow thickness, mitotic rate, ulceration, regression, and microscopic satellites. This work serves to alert pathologists and clinicians to the existence of variability in reporting these prognostic factors.

Keywords: dermatopathology; interobserver variability; melanocytic skin lesions; melanoma; synoptic reports.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Observer Variation
  • Patient Care
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology