Medical Definition of Breslow thickness

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 10/30/2018

Breslow thickness: A method for determining the prognosis with melanoma. The thickness of a melanoma is related to the 5-year survival rate after surgical removal of the tumor.

Named for the physician Alexander Breslow who in 1975 observed that as the thickness of the tumor increases, the chance of survival goes down. For example, a thickness of the melanoma of less than 1.0 millimeters is associated with a 5-year survival of 97% of patients whereas a tumor thickness of more than 8.0 millimeters is associated with 5-year survival of 32%.

The Breslow thickness has come into wider use than an older system, the Clark level of invasion, a method devised by the pathologist Wallace Clark for measuring the depth of penetration of a melanoma into the skin according to anatomic layer (the epidermis, dermis, and the subcutis) of deepest tumor penetration.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018