Quantification of vascularity in nodular melanoma and Spitz's nevus

J Cutan Pathol. 1997 May;24(5):272-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0560.1997.tb00791.x.


Spitz's nevi are acquired benign melanocytic skin tumors. Usually they are differentiated from nodular melanoma by clinical and histopathological criteria. Since Spitz's nevi are one of the most common simulators of nodular melanomas their bizarre histopathology may cause diagnostic confusion and make it difficult to differentiate these two melanocytic tumors. One of the histologic features shared by Spitz's nevus and nodular melanoma is prominent vascularity. The ability of malignant melanoma to induce angiogenesis is well established whereas benign melanocytic tumors do not have a prominent overall vascularity. The purpose of this study was to find out whether the degree of vascularity of nodular melanomas differs significantly from that of benign Spitz's nevi. In this study the number of microvessels and the vessel area were determined in 23 Spitz's nevi and 16 nodular melanomas. The number of microvessels and the vessel area were determined on Ulex Europaeus agglutinin I-stained sections by computer-assisted image analysis. Two methods of measurement were used, namely systematic and selective sampling. Measurement of the whole tumor specimen (systematic sampling) revealed a vessel count of 10.83/field (SD +/-5.97) for Spitz's nevi whereas nodular melanomas exhibited a significantly lower (p=0.04) vessel count of 6.44/field (SD +/-3.85). This difference was even more pronounced when the vessel area (Spitz's nevi: 17.85x10-4mm2, SD +/-10.32; nodular melanomas: 7.88x10-4mm2, SD +/-5.23) was investigated (p < 0.001). The difference in vessel area and vessel count was insignificant for areas exhibiting the greatest vascularity (selective sampling). Measurement of vessel count and vessel area lead us to conclude that Spitz's nevi have a significantly higher vascularity than do nodular melanomas. Our results thus indicate that angiogenesis in these pigmented lesions is not correlated with malignancy.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Melanoma / blood supply*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / blood supply*
  • Nevus, Pigmented / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology