Vulvar Melanoma: Molecular Characteristics, Diagnosis, Surgical Management, and Medical Treatment

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2021 Sep;22(5):639-651. doi: 10.1007/s40257-021-00614-7. Epub 2021 Jun 14.


Ten percent of all women have pigmented vulvar lesions. Fortunately, most of these are benign but 1% of all melanomas in women affect the vulva. While the mortality rate of cutaneous melanoma has dropped by 7% annually during the last 5 years, the prognosis of vulvar melanoma remains dismal: the 5-year overall survival rate is 47% compared with 92% for cutaneous melanoma. The current evidence suggests that this likely results from a combination of delayed diagnosis and different tumor biology, treatment strategies, and treatment response. Although many landmark trials on checkpoint inhibitors included mucosal and vulvar melanomas, the results were often not reported separately. Post-hoc analyses indicate overall response rates between 19 and 37% for checkpoint inhibitors. A recently published retrospective study on vulvar melanomas suggests an objective response in 33.3% with a similar safety profile to cutaneous melanoma. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors may be considered in recurrent disease if a c-KIT mutation is present.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Vulva / pathology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / therapy*