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Ann Surg Oncol. 2004 Mar;11(3 Suppl):198S-202S.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy does not change melanoma-specific survival among patients with Breslow thickness greater than four millimeters.

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  • 1National Cancer Institute, Naples, Italy.


Management of patients with cutaneous melanoma in the absence of lymph node metastases is still controversial. The experience at the National Cancer Institute in Naples was analyzed to evaluate 3-year disease-free survival and overall survival for all patients who underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLB) with Breslow thickness greater than 4 mm. Data from 359 sentinel biopsies performed in the past 5 years were reviewed to determine the effect of the treatment on disease-free survival and overall survival after stratifying patients for node status, tumor ulceration, and Breslow thickness. Statistical analysis showed a better 3-year survival for sentinel node-negative patients than for sentinel node-positive cases (88.4% and 72.9%, respectively; P <.05). Tumor ulceration retained its prognostic significance despite lymph node status, indicating a higher risk for development of distant metastases. Survival curves associated with thicker melanomas did not show significant differences between negative- and positive-SLB patients. SLB provides accurate staging of nodal status in melanoma patients who have no clinical evidence of metastases. Longer follow-up and final results from ongoing trials are necessary to definitively clarify the role of this procedure.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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