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Annals of Surgical Oncology

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Predictors for Use of Sentinel Node Biopsy and the Association with Improved Survival in Melanoma Patients Who Have Nodal Staging

Timothy D. Murtha MD, MHS, Gang Han PhD, Dale Han MD, FACS
Volume 25, Issue 4 / April , 2018



It is unknown how many patients with localized melanoma undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) or if there is a therapeutic effect from performing nodal staging. We evaluated predictors for SLNB use and assessed if there was an association with improved survival in melanoma patients who had SLNB.


The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database was queried for clinically node-negative melanoma cases ≥ 0.75 mm in thickness treated from 2010 to 2012. Clinicopathologic factors were correlated with SLNB use, overall survival (OS), and melanoma-specific survival (MSS).


Overall, 13,703 cases were included. SLNB was performed in 1479 of 3439 thin cases (43.0%), 5810 of 8522 intermediate-thickness cases (68.2%), and 916 of 1742 thick cases (52.6%). On multivariable analysis, age ≥ 70 years, thickness < 1 or > 4 mm, head/neck or trunk tumor location, being unmarried, African American race, and residing in a county with a lower level of education were significantly associated with a lower likelihood of performing SLNB (p < 0.05). Patients with intermediate-thickness or thick melanoma who had a SLNB had significantly improved OS and MSS compared with patients who did not have a SLNB (p < 0.05). On multivariable analysis, SLNB use significantly predicted for improved OS and MSS (p < 0.01).


Only 68.2% of intermediate-thickness and 52.6% of thick melanomas are treated with SLNB. Age, thickness, tumor location, race, marital status, and socioeconomic factors appear to influence the performance of SLNB. This data becomes more relevant with the finding that SLNB use is potentially associated with improved survival.

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