The interval between primary melanoma excision and sentinel node biopsy is not associated with survival in sentinel node positive patients - An EORTC Melanoma Group study

Eur J Surg Oncol. 2016 Dec;42(12):1906-1913. doi: 10.1016/j.ejso.2016.05.012. Epub 2016 May 27.


Background: Worldwide, sentinel node biopsy (SNB) is the recommended staging procedure for stage I/II melanoma. Most melanoma guidelines recommend re-excision plus SNB as soon as possible after primary excision. To date, there is no evidence to support this timeframe.

Aim: To determine melanoma specific survival (MSS) for time intervals between excisional biopsy and SNB in SNB positive patients.

Methods: Between 1993 and 2008, 1080 patients were diagnosed with a positive SNB in nine Melanoma Group centers. We selected 1015 patients (94%) with known excisional biopsy date. Time interval was calculated from primary excision until SNB. Kaplan-Meier estimated MSS was calculated for different cutoff values. Multivariable analysis was performed to correct for known prognostic factors.

Results: Median age was 51 years (Inter Quartile Range (IQR) 40-62 years), 535 (53%) were men, 603 (59%) primary tumors were located on extremities. Median Breslow thickness was 3.00 mm (IQR 1.90-4.80 mm), 442 (44%) were ulcerated. Median follow-up was 36 months (IQR 20-62 months). Median time interval was 47 days (IQR 32-63 days). Median Breslow thickness was equal for both <47 days and ≥47 days interval: 3.00 mm (1.90-5.00 mm) vs 3.00 mm (1.90-4.43 mm) (p = 0.402). Sentinel node tumor burden was significantly higher in patients operated ≥47 days (p = 0.005). Univariate survival was not significantly different for median time interval. Multivariable analysis confirmed that time interval was no independent prognostic factor for MSS.

Conclusions: Time interval from primary melanoma excision until SNB was no prognostic factor for MSS in this SNB positive cohort. This information can be used to counsel patients.

Keywords: Cutaneous melanoma; Melanoma; Melanoma specific survival; Prognosis; Sentinel lymph node biopsy; Waiting list.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / pathology*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Burden
  • Waiting Lists