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Outcome of sentinel lymph node biopsy and prognostic implications of regression in thin malignant melanoma.

Melanoma Research 2012 August
Thin melanomas with partial or complete regression may provide clues about antitumor immunity, but their management remains controversial. We have characterized the management and clinical outcomes of regressed thin (<1 mm) T1a melanomas and hypothesized that regression increases the risk of regional metastases when compared with nonregressed thin melanomas. A prospectively collected clinical database was reviewed, and T1a melanomas with regression were identified. Histology, surgical approach, outcome, and survival were evaluated. The primary outcome measures were sentinel node positivity, subsequent lymph node metastasis, and survival. A total of 75 patients with T1a or in-situ melanomas were grouped into three subsets. Group 1: 35 underwent a sentinel node biopsy (SNBx), none of which were positive. No patients developed nodal recurrence. The 5-year survival of this group was 93%, with a median follow-up of 52 months. Group 2: 31 were followed up without SNBx; two developed regional nodal disease (6.5%), neither of whom died of subsequent distant disease. The 5-year survival was 89%, with a median follow-up of 38 months. There was no significant difference in the survival between groups 1 and 2. Group 3: nine patients presented with metastatic disease concurrent with a regressed thin melanoma. These patients had a median survival of 2.3 years and a 4-year survival estimate of 22%. Regression should not be used as an indication for SNBx in T1a melanomas; we recommend that such patients be managed with wide local excision and a long-term clinical follow-up. The poor prognosis of thin regressed primary melanoma with simultaneous metastatic disease may indicate the existence of immune escape phenotypes supporting melanoma progression.

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