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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2007 Apr;33(3):364-9. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy for high risk cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: case series and review of the literature.

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Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata (IDI-IRCCS), Via Monti di Creta, 104, 00167 Rome, Italy.



Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer. The metastatic potential is generally low. However, there are subgroups of patients at higher risk, for whom sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) might be useful. SLNB might allow the timely inclusion of high risk patients in more aggressive treatment protocols, sparing at the same time node-negative patients the morbidity of potentially unnecessary therapy. Our aim was to introduce the concept of SLNB for patients with high risk cutaneous SCC.


We examined a consecutive series of high risk cutaneous SCC patients undergoing SLNB at our large dermatological hospital, and performed a literature review and pooled analysis of all published cases of SLNB for cutaneous SCC.


Among the 22 clinically node-negative patients undergoing SLNB at our hospital, one patient (4.5%) showed a histologically positive sentinel node and developed recurrences during follow-up. Sentinel node-negative patients showed no metastases at a median follow-up of 17 months (range: 6-64). The incidence of positive sentinel nodes in previous reports ranged between 12.5% and 44.4%. Pooling together patients from the present and previous studies (total 83 patients), we calculated an Odds Ratio of 2.76 (95% CI 1.2-6.5; p=0.02) of finding positive sentinel nodes for an increase in tumor size from <2 cm to 2.1-3 cm to >3 cm.


Our case series and the pooled analysis support the concept that SLNB can be performed for high risk cutaneous SCC. Prospective multicenter studies are needed to examine the role, utility and cost-effectiveness of SLNB for this population.

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