Dermoscopy as a Tool for Identifying Potentially Metastatic Thin Melanoma: A Clinical-Dermoscopic and Histopathological Case-Control Study

Cancers (Basel). 2024 Apr 1;16(7):1394. doi: 10.3390/cancers16071394.


Despite being early-stage tumors, thin cutaneous melanomas contribute significantly to mortality and have a rising incidence. A retrospective case-control study was performed to identify clinical-dermoscopic and histopathological variables linked to local and distant metastases in melanomas ≤0.8 mm. Data from 1 January 2000 to 22 June 2022 were analyzed from two Italian skin cancer referral centers. Sixteen patients with ≤0.8 mm melanomas developing metastases were studied compared to controls without metastases over 5 years. Statistical analysis involved Pearson's chi-squared test or Fisher's exact test. Of the 1396 cases, 1.1% progressed. The median diagnosis age was 49 (range 28-83), with 56.3% men and 43.7% women. The torso was the primary tumor site (43.7%). Clinically, lesions were pigmented (>10 mm diameter: 73.3%, ≥3 colors: 80%). Dermoscopically, the common features were white patches (73.3%), atypical vascular patterns (66.5%), blue-gray areas (60%) and absent pigment networks (60%). Histopathologically, all cases had adverse features like regression (87.4%), dermal mitoses (50%), a vertical growth phase (62.5%) and ulceration (12.5%). These findings were statistically significant compared to controls (p < 0.05). In ≤0.8 mm melanomas, specific clinical-dermoscopic traits might indicate higher metastatic potential when paired with adverse histopathological features.

Keywords: dermatoscopy; dermoscopy; early-stage melanoma; metastasis; skin cancer; tumor thickness.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.