RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Should all patients with melanoma between 1 and 2 mm Breslow thickness undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy?

Cancer 2010 March 16
BACKGROUND: Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy generally is recommended for patients who have melanoma with a Breslow thickness > or = 1 mm. Most patients with melanoma between 1 mm and 2 mm thick have tumor-negative SLNs and an excellent long-term prognosis. The objective of the current study was to evaluate prognostic factors in this subset of patients and determine whether all such patients require SLN biopsy.

METHODS: Patients with melanoma between 1 mm and 2 mm in Breslow thickness were evaluated from a prospective multi-institutional study of SLN biopsy for melanoma. Disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) were evaluated by Kaplan-Meier analysis to compare patients with melanoma that measured from 1.0 mm to 1.59 mm (Group A) versus patients with melanoma that measured from > or = 1.6 mm to 2.0 mm thick (Group B). Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to evaluate factors predictive of tumor-positive SLN status, DFS, and OS.

RESULTS: The current analysis included 1110 patients with a median follow-up of 69 months. SLN status was tumor-positive in 133 of 1110 patients (12%) including 66 of 762 patients (8.7%) in Group A and 67 of 348 patients (19.3%) in Group B (P < .0001). On multivariate analysis, age, Breslow thickness, and lymphovascular invasion were independently predictive of a tumor-positive SLN (P < .05). DFS (P < .0001) and OS (P = .0001) were significantly better for Group A than for Group B. When tumor thickness was treated as either a continuous variable (P < 0.0001) or a categorical variable (P < .0001), it was significantly predictive of DFS and OS. On multivariate analysis, Breslow thickness, age, ulceration, histologic subtype, regression, Clark level, and SLN status were significant factors predicting DFS; and Breslow thickness, age, primary tumor location, sex, ulceration, and SLN status were significant factors predicting OS (P < .05). A subgroup of patients who had tumors <1.6 mm in Breslow thickness, had no lymphovascular invasion, and were aged > or = 59 years had a low risk (5%) of tumor-positive SLN.

CONCLUSIONS: The current findings indicated that there is significant diversity in the biologic behavior of melanoma between 1 mm and 2 mm in Breslow thickness. SLN biopsy is recommended for all such patients to identify those with lymph node metastasis who are at the greatest risk of recurrence and mortality.

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