Dysplastic nevus differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Dysplastic nevus should be differentiated from common moles and melanoma.

Dysplastic nevus differential diagnosis

Dysplastic should be differentiated from:

  • Common moles
  • Melanoma

Biopsy is the only way to differentiate above mentioned conditions from dysplastic nevus.

Disease or Condition Differentiating Signs and Symptoms Differentiating Tests
Microcystic adnexal carcinoma AKA sclerosing sweat duct carcinoma; simulate morpheaform variants of BCC; higher recurrence rate than BCC Histopathology: there are more ductal structures lined by a cuticle of keratin, which are not prevalent in BCCs; it will occasionally be positive with cytokeratin 7 and CEA (usually negative in BCCs)[1]
Trichoepithelioma/trichoblastoma There is a formation of papillary-mesenchymal bodies (follicular units that simulate bulb of the hair follicle); a characteristic stroma-stroma split; a lower apoptotic and mitotic rate than seen in BCC[2] Histopathology: the characteristic stroma-epithelium split and increase in apoptotic bodies and mitotic figures is not seen; Immunohistochemical: a characteristic perinuclear dot-like pattern and high molecular weight cytokeratin cocktail
Merkel cell carcinoma This is a highly malignant neoplasm derived from cutaneous neuroendocrine cells[3] Histopathology: opaque nuclei, no nucleoli, and increased nuclear/cytoplasmic ratio, peripheral palisading might be present
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) It may impossible to distinguish between BCC and SCC[4] Histopathology: larger cells with prominent nucleoli, foci of keratinization and formation of squamous whorls where the neoplastic cells tightly wrap around each other

Oral melanoma must be differentiated from other mouth lesions such as oral candidiasis and aphthous ulcer

Disease Presentation Risk Factors Diagnosis Affected Organ Systems Important features Picture
Diseases predominantly affecting the oral cavity
Oral Candidiasis
  • Denture users
  • As a side effect of medication, most commonly having taken antibiotics. Inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of lung conditions (e.g, asthma or COPD) may also result in oral candidiasis which may be reduced by regularly rinsing the mouth with water after taking the medication.
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Confirmatory tests rarely needed
Localized candidiasis

Invasive candidasis

Tongue infected with oral candidiasis - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=11717223.jpg
Herpes simplex oral lesions
  • Stress
  • Recent URTI
  • Female sex
  • The symptoms of primary HSV infection generally resolve within two weeks
Oral herpes simplex infection - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=19051042.jpg
Aphthous ulcers
  • Painful, red spot or bump that develops into an open ulcer
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnosis of exclusion
  • Oral cavity
  • Self-limiting , Pain decreases in 7 to 10 days, with complete healing in 1 to 3 weeks
By Ebarruda - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=7903358
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma - By Luca Pastore, Maria Luisa Fiorella, Raffaele Fiorella, Lorenzo Lo Muzio - http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/showImageLarge.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050212.g001, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15252632
  • Vulvar lesions occur independent of oral lesions
Leukoplakia - By Aitor III - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9873087
Oral melanoma - By Emmanouil K Symvoulakis, Dionysios E Kyrmizakis, Emmanouil I Drivas, Anastassios V Koutsopoulos, Stylianos G Malandrakis, Charalambos E Skoulakis and John G Bizakis - Symvoulakis et al. Head & Face Medicine 2006 2:7 doi:10.1186/1746-160X-2-7 (Open Access), [1], CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9839811
Fordyce spots
Fordyce spots - Por Perene - Obra do próprio, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19772899
Burning mouth syndrome
Torus palatinus
Torus palatinus - By Photo taken by dozenist, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=846591
Diseases involving oral cavity and other organ systems
Behcet's disease
Crohn's disease
Coxsackie virus
  • Symptomatic treatment
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease
Chicken pox
Chickenpox - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52872565
  • Unvaccinated individuals[8][9]
  • Crowded and/or unsanitary conditions
  • Traveling to less developed and developing countries
  • Immunocompromized
  • Winter and spring seasons
  • Born after 1956 and never fully vaccinated
  • Health care workers
Subtype Frequency Clinical Features
Common Subtypes
Superficial spreading melanoma 70%
  • Most common sub-type
  • Usually affects sun exposed sites among both men and women aged 50-70 years
  • Characterized by the presence of abundant junctional intra-epidermal spread of malignant melanocytes
Nodular melanoma 15-25%
  • Second most common subtype
  • Usually affects sun exposed sites among both men and women aged 50-70 years
  • Characterized by the absence of junctional intra-epidermal spread of malignant melanocytes
Acral lentiginous melanoma 5%
Lentigo maligna melanoma 1-5%
Non-cutaneous melanoma 5%
Less Common Subtypes
Desmoplastic/Spindle cell melanoma Rare
  • Lesion typically amelanotic and has a morphology similar to a scar tissue
  • Appears indolent but is highly infiltrative
  • Characterized by local recurrence and perineural spread
  • Usually affects males aged 60-70 years in sun exposed sites
  • May be de novo or can be associated with a pre-existing melanoma
  • Has several subtypes:
Nevoid melanoma Rare
Spitzoid melanocytic neoplasm Rare
Angiotropic melanoma Rare
Blue nevus-like melanoma Rare
  • Melanoma that develops from a pre-existing blue nevus
  • One of the rarest forms of melanoma
  • Appears as a blue nevus that has recently been rapidly expanding with irregular contours
  • Typically affects middle-aged men
Composite melanoma Rare


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