Follow-up schedules after treatment for malignant melanoma

Br J Surg. 2008 Nov;95(11):1401-7. doi: 10.1002/bjs.6347.


Background: Existing follow-up guidelines after treatment for melanoma are based largely on dated literature and historical precedent. This study aimed to calculate recurrence rates and establish prognostic factors for recurrence to help redesign a follow-up schedule.

Methods: Data were retrieved from the Sydney Melanoma Unit database for all patients with a single primary melanoma and American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) stage I-II disease, who had received their first treatment between 1959 and 2002. Recurrence rates, timing and survival were recorded by substage, and predictive factors were analysed.

Results: Recurrence occurred in 18.9 per cent (895 of 4748) of patients overall, 5.2 per cent (95 of 1822) of those with stage IA disease, 18.4 per cent (264 of 1436) with IB, 28.7 per cent (215 of 750) with IIA, 40.6 per cent (213 of 524) with IIB and 44.3 per cent (86 of 194) with IIC disease. Overall, the median disease-free survival time was 2.6 years, but there were marked differences between AJCC subgroups. Primary tumour thickness, ulceration and tumour mitotic rate were important predictors of recurrence.

Conclusion: A new follow-up schedule was proposed: stage I annually, stage IIA 6-monthly for 2 years and then annually, stage IIB-IIC 4-monthly for 2 years, 6-monthly in the third year and annually thereafter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy
  • Time Factors