The role of sentinel lymph node biopsy for thin cutaneous melanomas of the head and neck

Am J Otolaryngol. 2014 Mar-Apr;35(2):226-32. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2013.12.004. Epub 2013 Dec 12.


From 18% to 35% of cutaneous melanomas are located in the head and neck, and nearly 70% are thin (Breslow thickness ≤ 1 mm). Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) has an established role in staging of intermediate-thickness melanomas, however its use in thin melanomas remains controversial. In this article, we review the literature regarding risk factors for occult nodal metastasis in thin cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck (CMHN). Based on the current literature, we recommend SLNB for all lesions with Breslow thickness ≥ 0.75 mm, particularly when accompanied by adverse features including mitotic rate ≥ 1 per mm(2), ulceration, and extensive regression. SLNB should also be strongly considered in younger patients (e.g. < 40 years old), especially in the presence of additional adverse features. All patients who do not proceed with sentinel lymph node biopsy must be carefully followed to monitor for regional relapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / secondary
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Neck
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy*
  • Skin Neoplasms

Supplementary concepts

  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant