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J Dermatol Surg Oncol. 1985 Mar;11(3):233-9.

Malignant melanoma prognostic factors 7: elective lymph node dissection.


Every prospective study published to date, whether randomized or nonrandomized, shows that the survival rate for patients with clinical stage I melanoma is the same, irrespective of whether they have an elective lymph node dissection (ELND). All the studies that purport to show a survival benefit from ELND have been based on retrospective data and are therefore subject to selection bias. Nevertheless, the data support the notion that there may be a small, select group of melanoma patients whose lives can be saved by ELND. This subgroup is made up of those patients who have epithelioid in small nests (ESN) melanomas. In the early stages of its evolution, this type of malignant melanoma metastasizes to regional lymph nodes and often does not have coexistent distant metastases. Other types of melanomas, when they metastasize, either bypass the lymph nodes or metastasize to the lymph node and simultaneously send distant metastases elsewhere, nullifying the anticipated benefit from an ELND. We encourage dermatologists, when they have a choice, to be supportive of those surgeons who have a choice, to be supportive of those surgeons who are actively participating in ongoing randomized trials designed to select patients who might benefit from ELND.

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