Annals of Surgical Oncology

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 728-739

First online:

Histopathologic Characteristics, Recurrence Patterns, and Survival of 129 Patients With Desmoplastic Melanoma

  • Katherine E. PostherAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center Email author 
  • , M. Angelica SelimAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, Duke University Medical Center
  • , Paul J. MoscaAffiliated withLehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network
  • , Wilma E. StanleyAffiliated withDuke Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duke University Medical Center
  • , Jeffrey L. JohnsonAffiliated withLehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network
  • , Douglas S. TylerAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center
  • , Hilliard F. SeiglerAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center

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Desmoplastic melanoma (DM) has been associated with higher local recurrence rates than other types of cutaneous melanoma. Current controversies regarding locoregional treatment strategies warrant further investigation.


Retrospective review of a prospectively maintained melanoma database identified 129 patients with DM out of >12,500 melanoma patients referred for treatment from 1980 to 2003. Clinical and histopathologic characteristics, recurrence, and survival were analyzed.


The median follow-up was 4.0 years. Of the 129 patients identified, 82 (63.6%) were male, and the median age was 55.2 years. American Joint Committee on Cancer staging was I, II, and III in 25.6%, 68.0%, and 6.4% of patients, respectively, and the mean tumor thickness was 4.42 mm. Overall survival was 76% at 5 years and 64% at 10 years; median survival was 13.0 years. A total of 51 patients (39.5%) experienced disease recurrence, with a median time to recurrence of 1.3 years. The first recurrence was local in 18 patients (14.0%), nodal in 18 patients (14.0%), and distant in 15 patients (11.6%), with median survivals of 6.7, 7.8, and 1.8 years, respectively. Statistically significant predictors of recurrence were a final positive margin status and stage, and predictors of overall survival were patient age and stage.


Compared with other types of melanoma, DMs do demonstrate a tendency toward local recurrence, thus suggesting that narrower excision margins may not be appropriate in this population. Scrutiny of final surgical margins is critical to the local management of DM. In addition, the potential for regional nodal involvement must be considered at the time of diagnosis and during surveillance for disease recurrence.


Desmoplastic Melanoma Histopathology Recurrence Survival