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Clin Dermatol. 2009 Nov-Dec;27(6):588-93. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2008.09.016.

What sentinel node biopsy in patients with melanoma (or patients whose doctors worry that they could have melanoma) might and might not do.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, 1701 Divisadero Street, Suite 350, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA.


The sentinel lymph node biopsy has taught us important lessons about the behavior of melanoma and, perhaps, of melanocytic nevi. It is of proven prognostic importance in patients whose diagnosis of melanoma is clear-cut. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is an imperfect prognostic tool, however, and although the morbidity of the procedure is low, completion lymphadenectomy has a high morbidity rate and unproven benefit. In the setting of a borderline lesion, small nodal deposits must be interpreted with caution.

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