JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Relative frequency of solitary melanocytic lesions of the oral mucosa.

BACKGROUND: Solitary pigmented lesions of melanocytic origin are uncommon in the oral mucosa. These lesions include the oral and labial melanotic macule, oral melanocytic nevus, oral melanoacanthoma, oral melanoma and atypical melanocytic proliferation. The purpose of the study was twofold: to report a large series of solitary melanocytic lesions from one source, and to determine the relative frequency of these lesions.

METHODS: The study was based on a systematic search of the files of the Pacific Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Laboratory, University of the Pacific, San Francisco for solitary pigmented melanocytic lesions (benign and malignant) accessed during the years 1984-2002.

RESULTS: Of the 89 430 biopsies accessed during the 19-year period, 773 (0.83%) cases of solitary pigmented melanocytic lesions in the oral mucosa were identified. Oral and labial melanotic macules were the most common melanocytic lesions comprising 86.1% of the entire group and 0.7% of the total number of accessed biopsies. The vermilion border and gingiva were the most common sites (31.1% and 31.0% respectively). Oral melanocytic nevi comprised 11.8% of the entire melanocytic group and 0.1% of the total number of biopsies. The most common site was the palate (44%). Intramucosal nevi were the most common (64%), followed by compound nevi (16.5%) and common blue nevi (16.5%). Junctional nevi were uncommon (3.0%). Oral melanoacanthoma comprised only 0.9% of the entire melanocytic group and 0.008% of the total number of biopsies. Oral melanoma and atypical melanocytic proliferation were the least common lesions each comprising 0.6% of the entire melanocytic group and 0.006% of the total number of biopsies. The most common site for oral melanoma was the palate (60%).

CONCLUSION: The palate was the most common location for both melanocytic nevi and oral melanoma. Thus, all melanocytic lesions in the palate should be viewed with caution and biopsy is recommended to rule out melanoma. Further studies are required to elucidate the entity of oral atypical melanocytic proliferation.

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