How frequently does melanoma metastasize to the brain?

Updated: Aug 01, 2018
  • Author: Victor Tse, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Nicholas Lorenzo, MD, MHA, CPE  more...
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Answer

Melanoma commonly metastasizes to the brain. Melanoma has an increased incidence among other systemic cancers in terms of metastasizing to the brain. About 40-60% of patients with melanoma will have brain metastasis. Melanoma cells are closely related to CNS cells due to their embryonic origin and neural crest cells, and they share common antigens such as MAG-1 and MAG-2. After melanoma is detected in the brain, median survival is 3 months. These metastases are poorly responsive to all treatments. Approximately 14% of cases have no identifiable primary tumor. Melanomagenic tumors also involve the pial/arachnoid. In CT imaging, they are marginally enhanced with contrast compared with bronchogenic cancer. They are distinctive in MRI because of the melanin or due to hemorrhage. Others metastatic tumors that commonly bleed are thyroid and renal cell carcinoma. Unfortunately, patients with brain metastasis from melanoma are known to do poorly despite therapy.


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