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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of primary melanoma of the colon

Umair Khalid1, Taimur Saleem1, Ayesha Mallick Imam1 and Muhammad Rizwan Khan2*

Author Affiliations

1 Medical College, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi 74800, Pakistan

2 Section of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi 74800, Pakistan

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World Journal of Surgical Oncology 2011, 9:14  doi:10.1186/1477-7819-9-14

Published: 1 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Melanomas within the alimentary tract are usually metastatic in origin. On the other hand, primary melanomas of the gastrointestinal tract are relatively uncommon. There are several published reports of melanomas occurring in the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, and anorectum. The occurrence of primary melanoma of the colon has, however, only been rarely reported. The optimum modus operandi for the management of primary colonic melanoma remains nebulous due to the limited number of reports in literature.

Methods

A comprehensive search of Medline, Cochrane and Highwire was performed using the following keywords: 'melanoma', 'malignant melanoma', 'primary melanoma', 'colon', 'gastrointestinal tract', 'alimentary tract', 'digestive tract', and 'large bowel'. All patients with primary melanoma localized to the colon were included in the review. Patients with metastatic melanomas to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and primary melanomas localized to the GI tract in anatomic locations other than colon were excluded.

Results

There have been only 12 reported cases of primary melanoma of the colon to date. The average age of patients on presentation was 60.4 years without any significant gender predilection. Right colon (33%) and cecum (33%) were the most common sites for the occurrence of primary colonic melanoma while abdominal pain (58%) and weight loss (50%) were the most common presenting complaints. Colonoscopy is the most reliable diagnostic investigation and offers the additional advantage of obtaining tissue for diagnosis. S-100 and HMB-45 are highly sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of this malignancy. For primary colonic melanomas that have not metastasized to any distant parts of the body, surgical resection with wide margins appears to be the treatment of choice. Although the management was individualized in every case, most of the authors preferred traditional hemicolectomy as the favored surgical approach. Chemotherapeutic agents including interferons, cytokines, biological agents and radiation therapy for brain metastases have been reported as adjuvant and palliative options while considering malignant melanomas in general. The average recurrence-free interval was 2.59 years. Nine of the 12 reports documented follow-up in their patients. Two of these 9 (22.2%) patients died.

Conclusions

Primary melanoma of the colon is a rare clinical entity. Whenever a seemingly primary melanoma is detected in an atypical location such as the colon, it is prudent to conduct a thorough clinical investigation to consider the possibility of metastatic disease. Further studies are needed to document the long term follow-up, survival advantage and safety of the management approaches employed in patients with primary colonic melanoma. Based on current data, surgical resection appears to be appropriate management for primary colonic melanomas; unless the disease has metastasized to distant sites where surgery may have a limited palliative role.