Accuracy of partial biopsies in the management of cutaneous melanoma

Brent J. Doolan, Aaron J. Robinson, Rory Wolfe, John W. Kelly, Catriona McLean, Chris McCormack, Michael A. Henderson, Yan Pan

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The recommended method for histopathological diagnosis of cutaneous melanoma is excisional biopsy, although partial biopsies (shave and punch) are often used. Following a partial biopsy, treatment guidelines recommend a narrow excisional biopsy to plan definitive management. There is limited evidence on the benefits of direct wide local excision (WLE) following diagnostic partial biopsies. Methods: Retrospective cohort study of cutaneous melanoma cases, from two tertiary referral centres from January 2013 to December 2015. Demographic and histopathological data, including tumour thickness (T-stage) from initial biopsy and subsequent excisions, were collected. Logistic regression was used to examine histopathological T-staging between biopsy and subsequent excisions (upstaging). Results: 2304 melanomas (2157 patients) were identified; 455 shave, 308 punch, 14 incisional and 1527 excisional biopsies. Out of 1527, 5 (<1%) excisional biopsies were upstaged from original biopsy T-stage to final WLE; compared to 28/455 (6%) for shave, 45/308 (15%) for punch and 2/14 (14%) for incisional biopsies. Histopathology upstaging were increased with punch (OR, 52.1; 95% CI, 20.5–132.4. P < 0.001) and shave biopsy (OR, 20.0; 95% CI, 7.7–52.0. P < 0.001) compared to excisional biopsy. Upstaging rates of 9.4% for desmoplastic (OR, 6.9; 95% CI, 2.4–19.7. P < 0.001) and 21.9% for acral lentiginous (OR, 18.4; 95% CI, 6.9–49.2. P < 0.001) melanomas were elevated compared to 1.4% for superficial spreading melanoma. Conclusions: In most cases, partial biopsy (particularly shave biopsy) can provide sufficient information to plan for definitive surgical melanoma management. Punch and incisional biopsies have elevated upstaging rates, a consideration in planning therapy. Partial biopsies of desmoplastic or acral lentiginous melanomas have high rates of upstaging and should have a complete excision prior to definitive treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-213
Number of pages5
JournalAustralasian Journal of Dermatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Australia
  • biopsy
  • melanoma
  • shave
  • skin neoplasms
  • staging

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