Recurrence of Melanoma After a Negative Sentinel Node Biopsy: Predictors and Impact of Recurrence Site on Survival

Ann Surg Oncol. 2019 Jul;26(7):2254-2262. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07369-w. Epub 2019 Apr 22.


Background: Factors that predict melanoma recurrence after a negative sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) are not well-defined. We evaluated melanoma recurrence patterns, factors prognostic for recurrence, and the impact of recurrence on outcomes after a negative SLNB.

Methods: The Sentinel Lymph Node Working Group database was evaluated from 1996 to 2016 for negative SLNB melanoma patients. Clinicopathologic characteristics were correlated with recurrence, overall survival (OS), and melanoma-specific survival (MSS).

Results: Median follow-up was 32.1 months. Recurrences developed in 558 of 5351 negative SLN patients (10.4%). First-site of recurrence included a local or in-transit recurrence (LITR) in 221 cases (4.1%), nodal recurrence (NR) in 109 cases (2%), and distant recurrence (DR) in 220 cases (4.1%). On multivariable analysis, age, thickness, head/neck or lower extremity primary, and microsatellitosis significantly predicted for an LITR as first-site. Having an LITR as first-site significantly predicted for a subsequent NR and DR, and significantly predicted for worse OS and MSS. Furthermore, thickness and head/neck or lower extremity primary significantly predicted for an NR as first-site, while a prior LITR significantly predicted for a subsequent NR. Factors significantly predictive for a DR included thickness, head/neck or trunk primary, ulceration, and lymphovascular invasion. Patients with any type of locoregional recurrence were at higher risk for a DR.

Conclusions: Recurrences occur in 10.4% of negative SLN patients, with LITR and DR being the most common types. Importantly, having an LITR significantly predicts for a subsequent NR and DR, and is prognostic for worse survival after a negative SLNB.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision / mortality*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / pathology*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / surgery
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / mortality*
  • Survival Rate
  • Young Adult