Wide excision without radiation for desmoplastic melanoma




Adjuvant radiation has been proposed for the treatment of patients with desmoplastic melanoma, who reportedly have local recurrence rates as high as 40–60%. The authors investigated local recurrence rates at a tertiary referral center to determine the success of wide excision alone for patients with desmoplastic melanoma.


A review of a prospectively maintained melanoma clinical data base identified 65 patients between March 1997 and March 2004 with pure cutaneous desmoplastic melanoma. Complete surgical, histopathologic, and staging information was collected along with data on outcome, including local, regional, and distant recurrence and survival.


Similar to previous reports, patients with desmoplastic melanoma had a male-to-female ratio of 2 to 1, a mean age of 65.0 years (range, 31–92 yrs), and the majority of their tumors (55%) were located on the head and neck. The mean Breslow depth at diagnosis was 4.21 mm, with 38% of tumors thicker than 4.0 mm. All patients in this series underwent wide excision without radiation therapy. Surgical margins ≤ 2 cm were obtained for all trunk and extremity lesions and for 63% of head and neck lesions that measured > 1 mm in depth (63%). Margins of 1–2 cm were obtained for the remaining patients. Among 49 patients who had a minimum of 2 years of follow-up (mean, 3.7 yrs), the local recurrence rate was 4% (2 of 49 patients). Seventy-eight percent of the patients studied remained alive with no evidence of disease.


Local recurrence rates in the current series were considerably lower than the historically reported rates. This finding suggests that, for patients with desmoplastic melanoma, wide local excision with careful attention to appropriate margins produces excellent local control rates without the need for adjuvant radiation. Cancer 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.