Melanomas of the vulva and vagina

Oncology (Williston Park). 1996 Jul;10(7):1017-23; discussion 1024.


Melanomas of the vulva and vagina comprise < 2% of melanomas in women. Although their biologic behavior appears to be similar to that of cutaneous melanoma, vulvar and vaginal melanomas appear to have a different etiology. Women presenting with pigmented vulvar lesions should undergo expedited examination and full-thickness biopsy. Vulvar and vaginal melanomas should be staged surgically using the AJCC system, which incorporates Breslow and Clark microstaging. Adverse prognostic factors include advanced age at diagnosis, central location of tumor, capillary lymphatic space involvement, ulceration, high mitotic rate, and aneuploidy. Primary surgery should include radical local excision with 1-cm skin margins for melanomas < 1 mm thick and 2-cm margins for melanomas 1 to 4 mm thick. Deep margins should be at least 1 to 2 cm. Femoral inguinal lymphadenectomy should be performed in patients at increased risk of lymph node metastases on the basis of primary tumor characteristics. Adjuvant interferon-alfa appears to confer survival benefits in patients with regional nodal disease. Effective salvage therapy has not yet been identified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aneuploidy
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Lymphatic System / pathology
  • Melanoma* / etiology
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Melanoma* / secondary
  • Melanoma* / surgery
  • Mitosis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Survival Rate
  • Ulcer / pathology
  • Vaginal Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Vaginal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Vaginal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Vulvar Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms* / surgery


  • Interferon-alpha