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Persistent (Recurrent) Spitz Nevi: A Histopathologic, Immunohistochemical, and Molecular Pathologic Study of 22 Cases

Harvell, Jeff D. M.D.; Bastian, Boris C. M.D.; LeBoit, Philip E. M.D.

The American Journal of Surgical Pathology: May 2002 - Volume 26 - Issue 5 - p 654-661
Original Articles

This report describes 22 Spitz nevi that seemed to have been clinically removed but persisted and clinically recurred at the biopsy site. These were evaluated in terms of histopathology, immunohistochemistry, and molecular pathology using comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and fluorescent in situ hybridization. One of these 22 lesions was originally reported as an atypical melanocytic proliferation with some features of a Spitz nevus and was included in the study set at an early stage but was later recognized as melanoma after metastasis to regional lymph nodes 3 years after the local recurrence. We noted four histopathologic patterns in the recurrent lesions: 1) a predominantly intraepidermal pattern resembling “pseudomelanoma” as seen in recurrent “common” melanocytic nevi, 2) a compound, mostly nested pattern above or within a scar that was nearly identical to the originally biopsied Spitz nevus, 3) a nodular growth pattern that closely simulated invasive melanoma, and 4) a desmoplastic pattern resembling an intradermal desmoplastic Spitz nevus. Although the majority of recurrent lesions exhibited asymmetry and pagetoid spread, the dermal component usually had a low mitotic rate and retained architectural and cytologic maturation, which allowed distinction from invasive melanoma. Except for the metastasizing melanoma, the immunostaining pattern with S-100 and HMB-45 was identical to that previously reported for Spitz nevi. Ki67 revealed a very low proliferation rate in all cases, including the melanoma. CGH performed in 10 cases yielded results consistent with Spitz nevi in eight cases. The remaining two cases showed CGH profiles more typical of melanoma, and one of these was the above-referenced case of melanoma, proven by metastasis. Although ancillary molecular techniques such as CGH are of great help in distinguishing these from melanoma, until such techniques become widely available we advocate complete but conservative excision of any recurrent Spitz nevus.

From the Department of Pathology (J.D.H.), Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California; and the Departments of Dermatology and Pathology and UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center (B.C.B., P.E.L.), University of California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Philip E. LeBoit, MD, Dermatopathology Section, Room 350, University of California, 1701 Divisadero St., San Francisco, CA 94115, U.S.A.; e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.