Subungual Melanocytic Lesions in Pediatric Patients

Nov. 19, 2021

The study of subungual melanocytic lesions can present challenges because of the clinical and histologic characteristics of the nail unit and the difficulty of performing nail biopsies and processing specimens. These lesions can be even more challenging in children due to differences in clinical and epidemiological profiles between the adult and pediatric populations. Many of the clinical features of subungual melanocytic lesions that would raise alarm in an adult do not have the same implications in children. Consensus is also lacking on when a nail biopsy is needed to rule out malignancy in the pediatric setting. In view of these considerations and the rarity of subungual melanoma in childhood, the recommended approach in most cases is a watch-and-wait strategy. Subungual melanocytic lesions in children may also show atypical histopathologic features that are not necessarily associated with aggressive behavior. Subungual melanoma is very rare in childhood, with just 21 cases described to date. None of the patients developed visceral metastasis or died as a result and the diagnosis was controversial in many of the cases. Considering the above and the significantly higher frequency and particular characteristics of longitudinal melanonychia with a benign etiology in children, subungual melanocytic lesions should be managed differently in this setting than in adults. In most cases, a watch-and-wait approach is the most appropriate strategy.

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