Hazard rates for recurrent and secondary cutaneous melanoma: an analysis of 33,384 patients in the German Central Malignant Melanoma Registry

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Jan;66(1):37-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2010.09.772. Epub 2011 Jun 23.


Background: Knowledge about the risk for recurrence and secondary cutaneous melanoma (CM) is an important basis for patient counseling and planning of follow-up examinations.

Objectives: This study aimed to analyze stage- and time-dependent hazard rates (HR) and discusses current surveillance recommendations.

Methods: Follow-up data of 33,384 patients with incident CM in stages I to III (American Joint Committee on Cancer 2002) were recorded by the German Central Malignant Melanoma Registry in 1976 through 2007. Survival was based on Kaplan-Meier estimates and HRs were calculated.

Results: Recurrences were recorded in 4999 patients (stage I, 7.1%; stage II, 32.8%; and stage III, 51.0%). Ten-year recurrence-free survival was 78.9% (95% confidence interval 73.1-90.5); in stage I, 89.0%; stage II, 56.9%; and stage III, 36.0%. Whereas HR for recurrent CM showed a constantly low level less than or equal to 1:125 per year for stage IA, clearly higher HRs of greater than or equal to 1:40 were recorded in stage IB for the first 3 years and generally in stages II to III. Of all patients 2.3% developed secondary melanomas, with a consistently low HR of less than 1:220 per year.

Limitations: As German recommendations discontinued regular follow-up examinations after 10 years, no information can be given beyond this time point. Follow-up data of longer than 5 years were available in 41.4% of patients.

Conclusion: For patients at stage IA with thin melanoma and low HR for recurrent CM the need for surveillance remains questionable. For patients with higher HR greater than 1:40 per year, intensified surveillance strategies should be taken into account.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*