Effects of topical tretinoin on dysplastic nevi

Allan C. Halpern, Lynn M. Schuchter, David E. Elder, Du Ponf Guerry IV, Rosalie Elenitsas, Bruce Trock, Isabel Matozzo

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37 Scopus citations


Purpose: As potential precursors of melanoma and markers of increased melanoma risk, dysplastic nevi are suitable targets of strategies for melanoma chemoprevention. We report the results of a pilot study of topical retinoic acid in patients with dysplastic nevi. Patients and Methods: Five male patients with dysplastic nevi applied tretinoin to half of the back for 6 months. Baseline photographs of dysplastic nevi were compared with posttreatment photographs and assessed for morphologic change. At study completion, each subject had four nevi excised from the treated side and four from the untreated side of the back. Biopsies were histologically evaluated for the presence of dysplasia. Results: All patients developed signs of irritation as a result of treatment. One patient was not compliant with treatment due to skin irritation. The four compliant patients showed significant decreases in the clinical atypia of treated lesions, with concomitant fading and even disappearance of many treated nevi. Histologically, only four of 16 treated nevi met histologic criteria for dysplasia, in comparison to 13 of 16 untreated nevi. Conclusion: These results suggest that there is concomitant clinical and histologic improvement in a significant percentage of dysplastic nevi treated with topical tretinoin. However, the utility of topical tretinoin for chemoprevention of melanoma is limited by difficulty of application and associated inflammation. While new strategies in chemoprevention of melanoma are explored, sun protection and assiduous avoidance of sunburn must remain the mainstay of melanoma prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1035
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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