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Semin Surg Oncol. 1998 Jun;14(4):276-82.

Role of elective lymph node dissection in melanoma.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


In the last several years, much debate has centered on the management of the regional lymph nodes in malignant melanoma. The regional lymph nodes are the most common site of melanoma metastases and surgical excision of these involved nodes is the most effective treatment for either cure or local disease control. The issue still in question is the approach to the clinically negative regional lymph node basin. Retrospective studies have yielded conflicting results regarding the value of routine elective lymph node dissection (ELND) when nodes are clinically negative. Four prospective randomized clinical trials have been completed which have indicated that routine ELND is not worthwhile for the majority of melanoma patients. However, ELND may be associated with improved outcome in certain subgroups of patients: those <60 years age with 1 to 2 mm thick melanomas with or without ulceration. In addition, lymphatic mapping with sentinel lymph node biopsy has become increasingly available and has allowed clinicians an alternative to ELND. In the absence of sentinel lymph node biopsy, the role for ELND in these subgroups of patients is one of the remaining unresolved issues.

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