Epidemiology

Mucosal melanomas of the head and neck comprise just over 1% of all melanomas and of these about 50% arise in the oral cavity. Oral mucosal melanomas are therefore rare, representing about 0.5% of oral malignancies {1085} and less than 0.01% of all oral biopsies {122}. The annual incidence in the USA is about 0.02 per 100,000 {170}, but the lesion may be more common in other parts of the world including Japan where the oral cavity has been reported as the most common site for melanomas {2528}.

They arise in adults with an average age of about 55, but with a uniform age distribution from 20-80 years {122,617,1085, 2080,2127}. Very rare cases have been reported in children. In most large series there is a male predominance in a ratio of about 3:1 {122,617,2080} and some reports show males and females are almost equal {144,1843}.

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