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Am J Surg. 1991 Oct;162(4):310-4.

Experience with 998 cutaneous melanomas of the head and neck over 30 years.

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Sydney Melanoma Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW, Australia.


Between 1960 and 1990, a total of 998 patients were treated at the Sydney Melanoma Unit for cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck. There were 595 male and 403 female patients, with a median age of 53 years. The most common primary lesion site was the face (47%), followed by the neck (29%), scalp (14%), and ear (10%). Histologic types were as follows: superficial spreading 30%, nodular melanoma 28%, lentigo maligna melanoma 16%, and other 26%. All patients underwent surgical treatment. Primary closure of wounds was achieved in 52% of patients, and excision margins were 2 cm or less in 45%. A total of 152 patients had therapeutic neck dissections, and 234 had elective neck dissections. The overall local recurrence rate was 13%, and this was significantly influenced by increasing tumor thickness and Clark level. The recurrence rate in the neck after neck dissection was 24%, and the rate of parotid recurrences was 14%. Melanoma-specific survival was 77% at 5 years and 66% at 10 years for the entire group. By univariate analysis, survival varied significantly with age, tumor thickness, ulceration, anatomic sub-site, histologically positive nodes, and the presence of distant metastases. A diagnosis of lentigo maligna melanoma and elective lymph node dissection both appeared to improve survival. With multivariate analysis, all of these factors remained significant prognostic factors except elective node dissection, which lost its beneficial influence.

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