Review: Mucosal melanoma of the head and neck

Haim Gavriel*, Grant McArthur, Andrew Sizeland, Michael Henderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Head and neck mucosal melanoma (MM) is a rare and aggressive neoplasm, with high rates of local, regional, and distant failure. Owing to the small size of most reported series and their retrospective nature, and the lack of uniform comprehensive staging system, the effect of various treatment strategies on disease control and survival has been difficult to assess. The optimal management of head and neck MM is not well defined. Surgical treatment has being advocated as the primary treatment modality, with growing consideration for postoperative radiotherapy, as wide surgical resection in the head and neck region is often difficult. Radiotherapy is recently reported as a beneficial management modality, regardless of the fact that MM has been considered to be radioresistant. As significant morbidity is expected in high doses of radiotherapy to the head and neck region, new radiographic modalities with better precision are required. Furthermore, high-energy radiotherapy was suggested as a better therapy to mucosal MM due to the suggested biology of the tumor. The high rates of locoregional recurrence and distant metastasis also suggest that a systemic treatment is needed. Currently, there is no role for adjuvant systemic therapy for patients who have been successfully resected, but recent developments in the understanding of the biology of melanoma and, in particular, specific growth pathways holds promise for the future. We strongly recommend further evaluation of the role of chemotherapy and immunotherapy to decrease the rates of distant metastasis and improve survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-266
Number of pages10
JournalMelanoma Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • head and neck sinonasal
  • malignant melanoma
  • mucosal
  • radiotherapy
  • surgery
  • treatment


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