Malignant Mucosal Melanoma of the Head and Neck - a Review

Erzsébet LENGYEL1, Katalin GILDE2, Éva REMENÁR3, Olga ÉSIK4

1Department of Radiotherapy, National Institute of Oncology, Budapest, Hungary
2Department of Dermatology, National Institute of Oncology, Budapest, Hungary
3Department of Head and Neck Surgery, National Institute of Oncology, Budapest, Hungary
4Section of Radiotherapy, Department of Oncotherapy, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary


Mucosal melanomas comprise about 1% of all malignant melanomas and exhibit far more aggressive behaviour than that of skin melanomas: they are more inclined to metastatize into regional and distant sites or recur locally, regionally or in distant locations, resulting in a high rate of cause-specific death. Mucosal melanomas in the head and neck region account for half of all mucosal melanomas, occurring mainly in the upper respiratory tract, oral cavity and pharynx. They appear with equal gender distribution and with a peak incidence in the age range 60-80 years. In consequence of their hidden location, they are usually diagnosed in a locoregionally advanced clinical stage, with a rate of 5-48% of regional and 4-14% of distant dissemination. The typical therapeutic approach is surgery, postoperative irradiation and systemic therapy. Local control with either surgery or radiotherapy is frequently (60- 70%) achieved, but the rates of local, regional and distant recurrences are high (50-90%, 20-60% and 30-70%, respectively). The reported 5-year actual survival rates are poor (17-48%), which is attributed mainly to a haematogenous dissemination. These characteristics demonstrate that identification of the precursor lesions and more effective local and systemic approaches are needed to improve the therapeutic results. Pathology & Oncology Research, Vol 9, Nr 1, 7-12, 2003

Key words: head and neck; mucosal melanoma; malignant melanoma; surgery radiotherapy; chemotherapy

Received: Jan 28, 2003; accepted: Mar 13, 2003
Correspondence: Erzsébet LENGYEL, Department of Radiotherapy, National Institute of Oncology, Ráth Gy. u. 7-9 Budapest 1122, Hungary; Tel: 36-1-2248600, Fax: 36-1-224 8620; E-mail:

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