JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Sentinel node biopsy is indicated for thin melanomas ≥0.76 mm.

BACKGROUND: A consensus for which patients with thin melanomas (≤1 mm) should undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is not established. We describe a large single institution experience with SLNB for thin melanomas to determine factors predictive of nodal metastases.

METHODS: Retrospective review from 2005 to 2010 identified 271 patients with thin melanomas who underwent SLNB, along with 13 additional patients not treated with SLNB who developed a nodal recurrence as first site of recurrence. Clinicopathologic characteristics were correlated with nodal status and outcome.

RESULTS: Median age was 55 years, and 53% of patients were male. Median Breslow thickness was 0.85 mm. Overall, a positive sentinel lymph node (SLN) was found in 22 (8.1%) of 271 cases; 8.4% of melanomas ≥0.76 mm were SLN positive with 5% of T1a melanomas ≥0.76 mm and 13% of T1b melanomas ≥0.76 mm having SLN metastases. Only two of 33 highly selected patients with melanomas <0.76 mm (both T1b) had a positive SLN. Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that mitotic rate ≥1/mm(2) significantly correlated with nodal disease (p < 0.05) and ulceration correlated with SLN metastases (p < 0.05). Median follow-up was 2.1 years. Overall survival did not differ between positive and negative SLN patients (p = 0.53) but was worse for patients presenting with a nodal recurrence (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: SLN metastases were seen in 8.4% of thin melanomas ≥0.76 mm, including 5% of T1a melanomas ≥0.76 mm. We believe these rates are sufficient to justify consideration of SLNB in these patients, while the indications for SLNB in melanomas <0.76 mm remain to be defined.

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