“Accuracy of partial biopsies in the management of cutaneous melanoma”

In this post, I link to Accuracy of partial biopsies in the management of cutaneous melanoma, Australas J Dermatol. 2019 Aug;60(3):209-213. doi: 10.1111/ajd.13004. Epub 2019 Feb 17. [PubMed Abstract]


Background: The recommended method for histopathological diagnosis of cutaneous melanoma is excisional biopsy, although partial biopsies (shave and punch) are often used. Following a partial biopsy, treatment guidelines recommend a narrow excisional biopsy to plan definitive management. There is limited evidence on the benefits of direct wide local excision (WLE) following diagnostic partial biopsies.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study of cutaneous melanoma cases, from two tertiary referral centres from January 2013 to December 2015. Demographic and histopathological data, including tumour thickness (T-stage) from initial biopsy and subsequent excisions, were collected. Logistic regression was used to examine histopathological T-staging between biopsy and subsequent excisions (upstaging).

Results: 2304 melanomas (2157 patients) were identified; 455 shave, 308 punch, 14 incisional and 1527 excisional biopsies. Out of 1527, 5 (<1%) excisional biopsies were upstaged from original biopsy T-stage to final WLE; compared to 28/455 (6%) for shave, 45/308 (15%) for punch and 2/14 (14%) for incisional biopsies. Histopathology upstaging were increased with punch (OR, 52.1; 95% CI, 20.5-132.4. P < 0.001) and shave biopsy (OR, 20.0; 95% CI, 7.7-52.0. P < 0.001) compared to excisional biopsy. Upstaging rates of 9.4% for desmoplastic (OR, 6.9; 95% CI, 2.4-19.7. P < 0.001) and 21.9% for acral lentiginous (OR, 18.4; 95% CI, 6.9-49.2. P < 0.001) melanomas were elevated compared to 1.4% for superficial spreading melanoma.

Conclusions: In most cases, partial biopsy (particularly shave biopsy) can provide sufficient information to plan for definitive surgical melanoma management. Punch and incisional biopsies have elevated upstaging rates, a consideration in planning therapy. Partial biopsies of desmoplastic [melanoma] or acral lentiginous melanomas have high rates of upstaging and should have a complete excision prior to definitive treatment.

Keywords: Australia; biopsy; melanoma; shave; skin neoplasms; staging.

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