The new melanoma staging system

Cancer Control. 2002 Jan-Feb;9(1):9-15. doi: 10.1177/107327480200900102.


Background: Classification schemas for cancers are useful for predicting overall survival and selecting patients for treatment. Historically, the most important factors in determining prognosis in patients with melanoma have been tumor thickness and lymph node status. Sentinel lymph node mapping defines a subset of patients with microscopic metastatic disease can be identified, offering greater accuracy in staging.

Methods: The authors reviewed studies evaluating the prognostic factors that are significant in predicting survival in patients with melanoma. The newly revised American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system for melanoma is compared with the 1997 AJCC staging system currently in use.

Results: The changes in the new AJCC melanoma staging system reflect the new prognostic factors that have been found to be important in predicting survival. These include primary tumor thickness (tumor depth in millimeters is more predictive than the level of invasion) and ulceration, number of metastatic lymph nodes, micrometastatic disease based on the sentinel lymph node biopsy technique or elective node dissection, the site(s) of distant metastatic disease and serum LDH levels.

Conclusions: Major revisions have been made to form a new AJCC staging system for melanoma, which will become official in 2002. This system will provide more accurate and precise information regarding patient prognosis. Validation studies are needed to confirm the accuracy of this revised staging system.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / classification
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging / classification*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / classification
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States