Background: In a cohort of patients, the authors investigated whether and to what extent the sentinel lymph node (SLN) status contributes to predicting the probability of remaining disease free for at least 3 years. In addition, several traditional prognostic factors were analyzed: Breslow thickness, Clark invasion level, ulceration, lymphatic invasion, location, type of the melanoma, and age and gender of the patient.
Methods: In 263 consecutive patients with proven American Joint Committee on Cancer Stages I and II cutaneous melanoma, the triple technique SLN procedure was used, i.e., preoperative visualization of the lymph channels from the initial site of the melanoma toward the SLN by (dynamic) lymphoscintigraphy, intraoperative visualization of those particular lymph channels and lymph nodes with blue dye, and a gamma probe to measure accumulated radioactivity in radiolabeled lymph nodes. Median follow-up time was 48 months (range, 36-84 months). Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to examine the influence of the SLN status and several other prognostic factors on a minimum 3-year disease free survival.
Results: In 20% of patients, the SLN proved to be tumor positive. For SLN negative patients, the 5-year disease free survival rate was 91% (+/- 2.4%), and for SLN positive patients it was 49% (+/- 9%). Five variables showed a strong and statistically significant independent prognostic association with outcome, i.e., SLN status (P = 0.0007), thickness of primary melanoma (1.01-2.0 mm; P = 0.04), ulceration (P = 0.05), and lymphatic invasion (P = 0.01) of primary melanoma, and age (40-50 years; P = 0.01).
Conclusions: The SLN status-along with Breslow thickness, ulceration, lymphatic invasion, and age--seems to have strong additional value in predicting a minimum 3-year disease free period after the SLN procedure. Patients with a positive SLN have a poorer prognosis than those with a negative SLN.
Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.