Clinicopathological, dermoscopic features and circumstances of diagnosis of amelanotic or hypomelanotic melanoma: A prospective multicentric study in the French private medical sector

Ann Dermatol Venereol. 2024 Mar;151(1):103249. doi: 10.1016/j.annder.2024.103249. Epub 2024 Feb 29.


Background: Amelanotic or hypomelanotic melanomas (AHM) are difficult to diagnose, and are often diagnosed late, with a high Breslow index and a poor prognosis.

Patients and methods: A total of 226 volunteer dermatologists consulting in private practice in France completed an online form for each new histologically proven case of melanoma diagnosed at their clinic in 2020. This anonymised survey collected data on the clinical, dermoscopic, and histological features of melanoma, as well as the circumstances of diagnosis and initial management. A group of 145 AHM was single out and compared to the 1503 pigmented melanomas (PM) from the same cohort.

Results: 1503 pigmented melanomas (PM) and 145 AHM (8.8% of these melanomas) were identified and included. In the AHM group, the mean age at diagnosis was 65 ± 16 years, with no significant difference from the PM control group. AHM were not predominantly on the face and neck area, and there were no differences based on gender. Warning signs (local progression and bleeding) were significantly more frequent in the AHM group than in the PM group. AHM were more frequently ulcerated and nodular, with a higher median Breslow thickness than in the PM group (1.56 vs. 0.5 mm), and mitoses were more frequent. Dermoscopy was widely used and proved useful for distinguishing benign lesions, and for highlighting the vascular polymorphous pattern of malignant lesions. Patients noticed the suspicious lesion themselves in most cases of AHM (73.2%), as opposed to their general practitioner (17.2%) or entourage (9.5%). A total body skin examination enabled detection of 19.3% of AHM and 21.3% of PM where the patient consulted for another lesion, or for an unrelated reason.

Conclusion: AHM are difficult to diagnose for the clinician because of the paucity or absence of pigmentary criteria. Knowledge of dermoscopic vascular patterns is critical and could help reduce the median Breslow index of AHM at the time of detection. Self-examination of the skin should be encouraged, and simple algorithms for earlier detection of skin cancers should be promoted among health professionals and the general population.

Keywords: Amelanotic; Circumstances of diagnosis; Dermoscopy; Hypomelanotic; Melanoma; Private practice; Screening.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dermoscopy
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Hypopigmentation*
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic* / diagnosis
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic* / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology