Dermal nevus

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Author: Mikael Häggström [note 1]
A suspected dermal (or intradermal nevus) generally presents as a dark skin focality.

Gross processing of skin excisions

Gross pathologic processing of skin excisions[1][note 2]
Lesion size
<4 mm 4 - 8 mm 9 - 15 mm
Benign appearance

Tissue selection from skin excision with lesion less than 4 mm with benign appearance.png

Tissue selection from skin excision with lesion 4-8 mm with benign appearance.png

Tissue selection from skin excision with lesion 9-15 mm with benign appearance.png

Suspected malignancy Tissue selection from skin excision with less than 4 mm suspected malignant lesion.png Tissue selection from skin excision with 4-8 mm suspected malignant lesion.png Tissue selection from skin excision with 9-15 mm suspected malignant lesion.png

In table above, each top image shows recommended lines for cutting out slices to be submitted for further processing. Bottom image shows which side of the slice that should be put to microtomy. Dashed lines here mean that either side could be used. Further information: Gross processing of skin excisions


On this resource, the following formatting is used for comprehensiveness:

  • Minimal depth
  • (Moderate depth)
  • ((Comprehensive))

Microscopic evaluation

  • Irregularly distributed dermal nests of melanocytes.[2]
  • Atypia


Blue nevus: Where the pigment is deeper in the skin than in ordinary nevi.

Differential diagnosis



(Grade a dermal nevus into either low or high grade by the following algorithm:)[4]

Algorithm for low grade versus high grade dysplastic nevus.png

In uncertain cases,(( more specific grading,)) and/or differentiation from a non-atypical congenital nevus and suspected invasive melanoma, the following table can be used to determine the most fitting diagnosis:

Comparison of dermal nevus and suspected invasive melanoma   edit
Parameter Non-dysplastic dermal nevus Low-grade dysplastic dermal nevus High-grade dysplastic dermal nevus Suspected invasive melanoma
Mild dysplasia Moderate dysplasia Severe dysplasia
Macroscopic Lateral circumscription[5] Sharp Slightly diminished Moderate Poor
Excised melanoma in situ.jpg
Symmetry[5] Good Often broken Rare
Micrograph Histopathology of non-dysplastic dermal nevus, low magnification.jpg Histopathology of invasive acral lentiginous melanoma.jpg
Delimitation[2] Rarely diffuse Sometimes diffuse Often diffuse
Confluent nests[2] Rarely Sometimes Often Often widespread
Pigment distribution[2] Regular Irregular
Concentric fibrosis Regressive (see below table)[5] Yes[2] Occasional[5]
Lamellar fibrosis Rarely[2] Often[2] Often pronounced[2] Occasional[5]
Lymphocytic infiltrate[2] Mild, perivascular Mild or moderate, perivascular Varying Varying
Micrographs Histopathology of dermal nevus, high magnification.jpg Histopathology of invasive melanoma, high magnification.jpg
Nuclear size[5] Small Medium Large Medium or large. Pleomorphic[6]
Nuclear pleomorphism[7] Slight superficial Slight Prominent
Chromatin pattern Uniform[5] Condensed[5] Partically expanded[5] Expanded, coarse in some cells[5] Expanded, hyperchromatic, coarse.[5] Usually granular.[7]
Nucleoli[5] Small Medium Large Usually[7] large
Mitoses[5] Few superficial Superficial and deep
Histological regression[7] (see below table) Usually Usually not
Percentage of atypical melanocytes[2] <10% About 10 - 50% about 50-90% Usually> 90%

Histological regression is one or more areas within a tumor in which neoplastic cells have disappeared or decreased in number. In this case, it means complete or partial disappearance of neoplastic cells from areas of the dermis (and occasionally from the epidermis), which have been replaced by fibrosis, accompanied by melanophages, new blood vessels, and a variable degree of inflammation.[8]

In suspected but not certain nevus or melanoma, generally perform immunohistochemistry with SOX10 (which stains cell nuclei of melanocytes), whereby melanocyte proliferation and nuclear pleomorphism is easier to see:[9]

Non-dysplastic dermal nevus on the ear with minor epidermal atypia, which on this location does not indicate dysplasia.


  • Diagnosis of dermal nevus.
  • (Most likely grade.)


(Skin, right upper chest, shave biopsy:)
Intradermal (low-grade) nevus.

  See also: General notes on reporting


  1. For a full list of contributors, see article history. Creators of images are attributed at the image description pages, seen by clicking on the images. See Patholines:Authorship for details.
  2. The excision examples show a normal mole (upper row, benign appearance) and a superficial basal cell carcinoma (lower row, suspected malignancy).

Main page


  1. There are many variants for the processing of skin excisions. These examples use aspects from the following sources: ". Ochsner J 5 (2): 22–33. 2003. PMID 22826680. PMC: 3399331. Archived from the original. . 
    - With a "standard histologic examination" that, in addition to the lesion, only includes one section from each side along the longest diameter of the specimen.
    - It also shows an example of circular coverage, with equal coverage distance in all four directions.
    - The entire specimen may be submitted if the risk of malignancy is high.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Katarzyna Lundmark, Britta Krynitz, Ismini Vassilaki, Lena Mölne, Annika Ternesten Bratel. Histopatologisk bedömning och gradering av dysplastiskt nevus samt gränsdragning mot melanom in situ/melanom (Histopathological assessment and grading of dysplastic nevus and distinction from melanoma in situ/melanoma). KVAST (Swedish Society of Pathology). Retrieved on 2019-09-18.
  3. Christopher S. Hale, M.D.. Skin melanocytic tumor - Dermal nevus. PathologyOutlines. Topic Completed: 1 August 2014. Minor changes: 21 September 2020
  4. Pozo, Lucia; Naase, Mahmoud; Cerio, Rino; Blanes, Alfredo; Diaz-Cano, Salvador J. (2001). "Critical Analysis of Histologic Criteria for Grading Atypical (Dysplastic) Melanocytic Nevi ". American Journal of Clinical Pathology 115 (2): 194–204. doi:10.1309/KXJW-1UJE-BPG6-AXBV. ISSN 0002-9173. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Arumi-Uria, Montserrat; McNutt, N Scott; Finnerty, Bridget (2003). "Grading of Atypia in Nevi: Correlation with Melanoma Risk ". Modern Pathology 16 (8): 764–771. doi:10.1097/01.MP.0000082394.91761.E5. ISSN 0893-3952. 
  6. Christopher S. Hale. Skin melanocytic tumor - Melanoma - Invasive melanoma. Topic Completed: 1 May 2013. Revised: 17 September 2019
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Husain, Ehab A; Mein, Charles; Pozo, Lucia; Blanes, Alfredo; Diaz-Cano, Salvador J (2011). "Heterogeneous topographic profiles of kinetic and cell cycle regulator microsatellites in atypical (dysplastic) melanocytic nevi ". Modern Pathology 24 (4): 471–486. doi:10.1038/modpathol.2010.143. ISSN 0893-3952. 
  8. Ribero, Simone; Gualano, Maria Rosaria; Osella-Abate, Simona; Scaioli, Giacomo; Bert, Fabrizio; Sanlorenzo, Martina; Balagna, Elena; Fierro, Maria Teresa; et al. (2015). "Association of Histologic Regression in Primary Melanoma With Sentinel Lymph Node Status ". JAMA Dermatology 151 (12): 1301. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2235. ISSN 2168-6068. 
  9. Miettinen, Markku; McCue, Peter A.; Sarlomo-Rikala, Maarit; Biernat, Wojciech; Czapiewski, Piotr; Kopczynski, Janusz; Thompson, Lester D.; Lasota, Jerzy; et al. (2015). "Sox10—A Marker for Not Only Schwannian and Melanocytic Neoplasms But Also Myoepithelial Cell Tumors of Soft Tissue ". The American Journal of Surgical Pathology 39 (6): 826–835. doi:10.1097/PAS.0000000000000398. ISSN 0147-5185. 

Image sources