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Atypical Genital Nevi: A Clinicopathologic Analysis of 56 Cases

Gleason, Briana C. MD*; Hirsch, Michelle S. MD, PhD*; Nucci, Marisa R. MD*; Schmidt, Birgitta A. MD; Zembowicz, Artur MD, PhD; Mihm, Martin C. Jr MD; McKee, Phillip H. MD, FRCPath§; Brenn, Thomas MD, PhD

The American Journal of Surgical Pathology: January 2008 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 51-57
doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e318068420c
Original Articles

Atypical genital nevi are rare melanocytic lesions that most commonly arise on the vulva of young women. They are currently regarded as nevi of special sites, in that despite histologically worrisome features, their clinical behavior is reportedly benign. However, only few studies with limited follow-up data are available. To better characterize the clinical presentation and behavior of these lesions and to further delineate their histologic features, we retrieved 56 atypical genital nevi arising in the lower female genital tract from our departmental and consultation files. The 56 lesions arose in 55 female patients with a median age of 26 years (range, 6 to 54 y). The dominant histologic feature was a lentiginous and nested junctional component composed of prominent round or fusiform nests, which often showed retraction artifact and/or cellular dyscohesion. Cytologic atypia was mild in 11 cases (20%), moderate in 34 (60%), and severe in 11 (20%). Ten cases (18%) showed focal pagetoid spread, with extension to the granular layer and stratum corneum in 1 case. The atypical junctional melanocytic proliferation was associated with a large common dermal nevus component that dominated the lesion in 26 cases (46%). Adnexal spread (46%) and nuclear atypia of melanocytes situated in the superficial dermis (39%) were relatively common, but dermal mitoses (7%) were uncommon and maturation was present in all cases. A broad zone of dense eosinophilic fibrosis within the superficial dermis was a frequent finding (41%). Clinical follow-up was available in 45 cases (80%) with a median follow-up period of 3.5 years (range, 1 to 16 y). Only 1 lesion recurred, 1.5 years after the initial excision. The original nevus in this patient had only mild cytologic atypia and was present at the margins of excision. The recurrent/persistent nevus was reexcised, and there was no further clinical recurrence in 11.5 additional years of follow-up. Our data support the hypothesis that atypical genital nevi have a benign clinical course despite their occasionally striking cytologic and architectural atypia. Awareness and recognition of this group of melanocytic lesions is important to avoid over diagnosis as melanoma with subsequent wide excision and possibly sentinel lymph node biopsy.

*Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School

Department of Pathology, Children's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School

Dermatopathology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

§Sedona, AZ

Department of Pathology, Western General Hospital and The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Reprints: Thomas Brenn, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, Western General Hospital, Alexander Donald Building, First Floor Crewe Road, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, Scotland (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.