Background: The role of benign melanocytic lesions as precursors and not only as risk markers for the development of cutaneous melanoma is controversial.
Objective: The purpose of the study was to assess the frequency of the histologic association of benign melanocytic lesions with cutaneous melanoma of a maximum thickness of 1.00 mm. The possibility that the spatial association of benign lesions with melanoma may be coincidental was also investigated.
Methods: The study subjects representing 289 cases of cutaneous melanoma of maximum thickness 1.00 mm (or less) were examined histologically for the presence of an associated benign melanocytic lesion(s), including lentiginous melanocytic proliferation; junctional, compound, or intradermal nevus; dysplastic nevus; and congenital nevus contiguous with or adjacent to the melanoma. The effects of age, tumor thickness, level of invasion, histologic type, and anatomic site on the association of benign melanocytic lesions with melanoma were assessed. In the control subjects 40 basal cell carcinomas and 38 compound nevi (not dysplastic) randomly chosen and matched for age (+/- 1 year) and site (head/neck, trunk, upper and lower limbs) with a melanoma case were examined to assess the proportion of these cases associated with benign lesions compared with the matched melanoma cases.
Results: A nevus was associated with melanoma in 51% of cases (n = 147). Of these, 82 (56%) were dysplastic nevi, 61 (41%) were common acquired nevi, and 4 (3%) were congenital nevi. Lentiginous melanocytic proliferation was present in the epidermis adjacent to 219 melanomas (75%) and in 44% of these cases (n = 97) a coexisting nevus was also present.
Conclusion: The results of this study lend further support to the concept of common acquired nevi and dysplastic nevi as precursors of cutaneous melanoma. In addition, lesions diagnosed clinically as simple lentigo and solar lentigo may be important as potential precursors of melanoma, particularly in the elderly.