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Ann Surg Oncol. 2010 Jun;17(6):1662-8. doi: 10.1245/s10434-010-0965-8. Epub 2010 Feb 18.

Conditional survival after surgical treatment of melanoma: an analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database.

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  • 1Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.



Survival curves following surgical treatment of cutaneous melanoma are heavily influenced by early deaths. Therefore, survival estimates may be misleading for long-term cancer survivors. We examined whether conditional survival (CS) is more accurate in predicting long-term melanoma survival.


We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database (1992-2005) to identify patients who underwent surgical treatment for melanoma. We included patients with T2-T4 disease and with known nodal status. Patients were stratified into low-risk (T2-3N0M0) and high-risk (T4N0M0 or T2-4N1-3M0) categories. We defined CS as time-specific estimates conditioned on living to a certain point in follow-up, and calculated 10-year cancer-specific survival curves conditioned on annual survival. We adjusted for potential confounders using a Cox proportional hazards regression model (alpha = 0.05).


A total of 8647 patients met inclusion criteria (low-risk, 5987 [69.2%]; high-risk, 2660 [30.8%]). At diagnosis, low-risk patients had a significantly better 10-year survival rate (low-risk, 79.6%; high-risk, 41.2%; P < 0.001). On CS analysis, survival differences remained until 8 years after treatment, after which 10-year cancer-specific survival rates were no longer significantly different (P = 0.51) for low-risk (95.4%) and high-risk (91.7%) groups. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that age, gender, location, and ulceration (initial predictors of survival) were no longer predictive after 8 years of survival.


For patients who survive 8 years after surgical treatment of melanoma, CS data become discordant with traditionally used estimates. Our findings have important implications for patient counseling, as high-risk melanoma survivors may require no more intensive surveillance than low-risk survivors 8 years after treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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