Background: Genetic alterations have been identified in melanomas according to different levels of sun exposure. Whereas the conventional morphology-based classification provides a clue for tumor growth and prognosis, the new classification by genetic alterations offers a basis for targeted therapy. Objective: The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the biological behavior of melanoma subtypes and compare the two classifications in the Korean population. Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed on patients found to have malignant melanoma in Severance Hospital from 2005 to 2012. Age, sex, location of the tumor, histologic subtype, tumor depth, ulceration, lymph node invasion, visceral organ metastasis, and overall survival were evaluated. Results: Of the 206 cases, the most common type was acral melanoma (n=94, 45.6%), followed by nonchronic sun damage-induced melanoma (n=43, 20.9%), and mucosal melanoma (n=40, 19.4%). Twenty-one patients (10.2%) had the chronic sun-damaged type, whereas eight patients (3.9%) had tumors of unknown primary origin. Lentigo maligna melanoma was newly classified as the chronic sun-damaged type, and acral lentiginous melanoma as the acral type. More than half of the superficial spreading melanomas were newly grouped as nonchronic sun-damaged melanomas, whereas nodular melanoma was rather evenly distributed. Conclusion: The distribution of melanomas was largely similar in both the morphology-based and sun exposure-based classifications, and in both classifications, mucosal melanoma had the worst 5-year survival owing to its tumor thickness and advanced stage at the time of diagnosis.
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