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Keywords:

  • cutaneous melanoma;
  • desmoplastic;
  • systematic review

Summary

Background  Desmoplastic melanoma (DM) is an uncommonly encountered type of malignant melanoma. The clinical appearance of DM can be highly variable and thus, diagnosis of this tumour is difficult and very often may mislead the physician.

Objectives  To make a critical review of the contemporary literature on DM, to pool the data from published studies and to evaluate the clinical and morphological characteristics of this neoplasm.

Methods  All studies or reports on DM including 10 or more participants with reported clinical and histological characteristics of the tumour were included.

Results  In the 17 studies that met the inclusion criteria a total of 856 patients with DM was reported. There was a male predilection, with a male/female ratio of almost 2 : 1 (63% of the lesions were diagnosed in males). The head and neck were the most common sites of DM for both sexes (53·2%). The data confirmed that DM usually has an advanced Breslow thickness at the time of presentation. Histopathological diagnosis of DM is sometimes difficult and the absence of pigmentation is probably the major cause for failure to recognize DM histologically. The pooled data from included studies showed that the incidence of nodal metastasis is lower in patients with DM than in patients with other forms of cutaneous melanoma.

Conclusions  Prompt definitive surgical excision is the treatment of choice for DM. Improved knowledge of the clinical behaviour and histological features of DM is important for more effective management of patients with DM.