Top 10 Differential Diagnoses for Desmoplastic Melanoma

Angel Fernandez-Flores, Rajendra Singh, David S. Cassarino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Desmoplastic melanoma is a rare subtype of melanoma mainly appearing on sun-exposed skin. Clinically, it is many times non-pigmented and therefore the diagnosis is often not suspected. Methods: Review article. Results: In this paper we review the main histopathological, immunohistochemical, and molecular features of desmoplastic melanoma, as well as the top 10 morphologic differential diagnoses which should be considered in most cases. The histopathological pattern can be many times deceptive, mimicking a scar, a fibrous reaction, a fibrohistiocytic tumor such as a dermatofibroma, a vascular tumor such as angiosarcoma, a smooth muscle tumor such as leiomyosarcoma, or a neural tumor. Although an overlying atypical junctional melanocytic proliferation may be seen in most cases, it is absent in a significant percentage (up to 30%) of cases, making the diagnosis even more difficult in those instances. The range of diagnostic pitfalls is wide, which may present disastrous prognostic consequences. Conclusion: Desmoplastic melanoma is often a difficult diagnosis to make, as it frequently shows nonspecific clinical findings and overlapping histologic features with many other tumors. However, the potential clinical and prognostic consequences of misdiagnosis as another entity are great. Therefore, this diagnosis must always be kept in mind when encountering spindle cell tumors affecting the head and neck area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-153
Number of pages11
JournalHead and Neck Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Desmoplastic melanoma
  • S100
  • Scar
  • Spindle cell melanoma


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