Accurate diagnosis of melanocytic lesions is fundamental for appropriate clinical management.


To evaluate the degree of discordance, if any, between histopathologic diagnoses of melanocytic lesions at referring institutions and at a tertiary referral cancer center and the potential impact of such discordance on clinical management.


We retrospectively identified all patients referred to our comprehensive cancer center for evaluation of a melanocytic lesion from January 2010 to January 2011. For each patient, the histopathologic diagnosis from the referring institution was compared with the histopathologic diagnosis from a dermatopathologist at our center. Discordances were classified as major if they resulted in a change in clinical management and minor if they did not.


A total of 1521 cases were included. The concordance rates were 72.2% (52 of 72) for dysplastic nevus, 75.0% (15 of 20) for all other types of nevi, 91.1% (143 of 157) for melanoma in situ, 96.1% (758 of 789) for invasive melanoma, and 99.6% (478 of 480) for metastatic melanoma. Major discordances were found in 20.2% of cases (307 of 1521), and minor discordances were found in 48.8% of cases (742 of 1521). Compared with the guideline-based treatment recommendation based on the referring-institution diagnosis, the guideline-based treatment recommendation based on the cancer center diagnosis was more extensive in 5.9% (89 of 1521) of patients and less extensive in 5.0% (76 of 1521) of patients.


Our findings underscore the importance of secondary histopathologic review of melanocytic lesions by expert dermatopathologists because significant changes in the diagnosis, tumor classification, and/or staging may be identified; thus, resulting in critical changes in recommendations for clinical management.

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Author notes

Phyu P. Aung, MD, PhD, is supported by a grant from the Melanoma Research Alliance and an Institutional Research Grant and Start-up Funding from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This work was also supported by the National Cancer Institute under award number P30CA016672, which supports the MD Anderson Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office.

This work was presented in part at the 106th (San Antonio, Texas, March 4–10, 2017) and 109th (Los Angeles, California, February 28-March 5, 2020) United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology annual meetings.

Competing Interests

 The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.