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J Am Coll Surg. 1995 Apr;180(4):402-9.

Elective lymph node dissection in patients with primary melanoma of the trunk and limbs treated at the Sydney Melanoma unit from 1960 to 1991.

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



The value of elective lymph node dissection (ELND) in melanoma remains controversial. Published prospective and retrospective studies can be criticized, and results from two ongoing randomized trials are not yet available. A previous retrospective review from the Sydney Melanoma Unit (SMU) showed apparent survival benefit from ELND, especially in tumors of intermediate thickness.


We undertook a retrospective analysis of all patients treated at the SMU since 1960 for melanoma of the trunk or limbs measuring 1.5 mm or more in thickness, without clinical lymph node metastases, whose definitive wide excision (WE) with or without ELND was performed at the SMU within 60 days of initial diagnosis.


There were 1,278 patients who fulfilled these criteria. Of these, 845 (66 percent) were treated with ELND and the remaining 34 percent were treated with WE alone. The median follow-up period was 58 months. Patients with thicker tumors and younger age more commonly underwent ELND. Among patients with thinner tumors, males underwent ELND more commonly than females. A multivariate proportional hazard model of melanoma-specific survival stratified by tumor thickness was chosen to allow for the imbalances between the two groups. With or without allowance for covariates, no benefit from ELND was found in the whole group or any subset. In contrast to previous studies from the SMU, we deliberately excluded from the present study patients referred only after WE with or without ELND elsewhere, because these might have been a selectively biased poor prognostic group.


This study does not indicate a benefit from ELND for melanomas of the trunk or limbs measuring over 1.5 mm in thickness.

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