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Plantar malignant melanoma – a challenge for early recognition

Franke, W.*; Neumann, N. J.; Ruzicka, T.; Schulte, K. W.

Original Articles

The incidence of malignant melanoma has been continuously increasing over the last few decades. Non-plantar melanomas are nowadays usually diagnosed and treated surgically at an early stage. In contrast, melanoma in a plantar location is usually diagnosed at an advanced tumour stage, conferring a poor prognosis. To discover the reasons for this remarkable difference in recognition and prognosis, we analysed our cases of plantar malignant melanoma in a retrospective study. From 1990 to 1997, we treated 925 melanoma patients. Of these, 68 cases (7%) were classified as plantar melanoma. For non-plantar melanoma patients the mean age was 52.6 years, the mean Clark level was 2.8 and the mean tumour depth was 1.22 mm. In contrast, the mean age of patients with plantar melanoma was 63.3 years, the mean Clark level was 3.61 and the mean tumour depth was 2.55 mm. The mean time between the first observation of the plantar skin lesion and the first consultation with a physician (patients’ delay) was 4.8 years and, on average, it took an additional 7 months before adequate surgical treatment was performed (physicians’ delay). The prognosis of our patients was poor. In 98.5% (n = 67) further metastases were observed on follow-up. Since there is still no cure for advanced plantar malignant melanoma, the early detection and subsequent surgical treatment of plantar melanoma is decisive for the prognosis. Based on our results, the poor survival can be improved by a significant reduction in the time period between the first observation of a plantar skin lesion and surgical treatment. Therefore there is an urgent need for special preventive health care campaigns to reduce significantly both the patients’ and the physicians’ delay.

Department of Dermatology, Heinrich-Heine University, Moorenstraße 5, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany. Tel: (+49) 211 811 7618; Fax: (+49) 211 811 7316; Email:

(Received 3 May 2000; accepted in revised form 17 July 2000)

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© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.