Background Animal-type melanoma is a rare distinct melanoma subtype, characterized by proliferation of heavily pigmented epithelioid and spindled melanocytes that resembles the heavily pigmented melanomas seen in grey horses. While animal-type melanoma is generally considered to be more indolent than conventional melanoma, only a limited number of cases have been reported and, as such, the clinical characteristics of animal-type melanoma are incompletely understood.
Objectives To characterize the clinical and histopathological features of animal-type melanoma, and determine any features that may predict outcome.
Patients/Methods Data was extracted from a prospectively collected melanoma database (1994–2008), and a retrospective pathology database (1991–2008) for all patients with a diagnosis of both equivocal (8) and unequivocal (14) malignant animal-type melanoma. We reviewed the clinical and histopathological features, including the sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) status.
Results A total of 22 patients were identified, with a median age of 35 years. The median Breslow depth was 2·22 mm. A SLNB was performed in 17 patients, eight (47%) were positive. Younger age was associated with: (i) animal-type melanoma with features equivocal for malignancy (median age of 7 vs. 48 years, P = 0·01), and (ii) a negative SLNB (median age 12 vs. 53 years, P = 0·03). Four patients with unequivocal animal-type melanoma developed recurrent metastatic disease, with one patient death. No patient with an equivocal animal-type melanoma or negative SLNB developed recurrent disease; however, this did not reach statistical significance (P = 0·13 and P = 0·09, respectively).
Conclusions Animal-type melanoma has a propensity for regional lymphatic metastasis and is rarely capable of disseminated metastatic disease and death. Animal-type melanoma appears to exhibit a spectrum of biological behaviour, with young patient age associated with more indolent disease.