Cutaneous metastases from a distant malignancy are a diagnostic challenge for pathologists. Secondary involvement of the skin by a metastatic process portends a much worse clinical prognosis than any primary cutaneous malignant mimickers. Immunohistochemical staining methods continue to evolve and are of paramount importance in diagnosis.
To review the clinical, histopathologic, and immunohistochemical staining patterns for commonly encountered entities and discuss potential pitfalls in diagnosis. A practical guide useful in approaching cutaneous metastases of unknown primary is outlined.
An extensive search and review of literature in PubMed was performed, processed, and condensed.
Cutaneous metastases have broad histopathologic patterns. They are nearly always dermal based, with an overall foreign appearance. They can be single papules/nodules or multiple in number, mimicking an inflammatory or infectious process. Ultimately, immunohistochemistry remains an essential diagnostic tool, and clinical correlation is paramount in the workup of these entities.