Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess the independent prognostic value of primary tumor mitotic rate compared with other clinical and pathologic features of stages I and II melanoma.
Methods: From the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) melanoma staging database, information was extracted for 13,296 patients with stages I and II disease who had mitotic rate data available.
Results: Survival times declined as mitotic rate increased. Ten-year survival ranged from 93% for patients whose tumors had 0 mitosis/mm(2) to 48% for those with ≥ 20/mm(2) (P < .001). Mean number of mitoses/mm(2) increased as the primary melanomas became thicker (1.0 for melanomas ≤ 1 mm, 3.5 for 1.01 to 2.0 mm, 7.3 for 3.01 to 4.0 mm, and 9.6 for > 8 mm). Ulceration was also associated with a higher mitotic rate; 59% of ulcerated melanomas had ≥ 5 mitoses/mm(2) compared with 16% of nonulcerated melanomas (P < .001). In a multivariate analysis of 10,233 patients, the independent predictive factors for survival in order of statistical significance were as follows: tumor thickness (χ(2) = 104.9; P < .001), mitotic rate (χ(2) = 67.0; P < .001), patient age (χ(2) = 48.2; P < .001), ulceration (χ(2) = 46.4; P < .001), anatomic site (χ(2) = 34.6; P < .001), and patient sex (χ(2) = 33.9; P < .001). Clark level of invasion was not an independent predictor of survival (χ(2) = 3.2; P = .37).
Conclusion: A high mitotic rate in a primary melanoma is associated with a lower survival probability. Among the independent predictors of melanoma-specific survival, mitotic rate was the strongest prognostic factor after tumor thickness.