• diagnosis;
  • diagnostic delay;
  • medico-legal aspects;
  • melanoma;
  • pathogenesis;
  • trauma

Background Little is known about the role of mechanical trauma in the pathogenesis of malignant melanoma. In individual patients, traumatic events have been discussed as a causative factor for the induction of melanoma and diagnosis of melanoma following trauma may raise medico-legal questions. Objectives To evaluate the relationship between traumatic single or recurrent events and melanoma characteristics. Methods Retrospective questionnaire in 369 melanoma patients. Results A large number of patients (337 of 369; 91·3%) denied an association between a possible traumatic event and melanoma formation. Thirty-two of 369 patients (8·7%) considered an association of trauma and melanoma formation likely. Of these 32 patients, 22 patients (13 men, nine women) reported a single event, and 10 patients (four men, six women) a persisting irritation. An irritation of a pre-existing melanocytic naevus was reported by two patients with histologically confirmed melanoma on acquired or congenital naevus. Conclusions As most of the patients who mentioned a trauma in this study suffered from acral melanoma, or melanoma located on the extremities, a history of trauma should be expected more frequently at these body sites. A review of epidemiological, clinical and scientific research indicates that there seems to be no evidence for single or persistent traumatic events as a causative factor for melanoma formation.