INTRODUCTION: Cutaneous malignant melanoma is notorious for its aggressive behavior and relatively poor outcome compared with other common skin malignancies. Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) accounts for at least 50% of melanoma in the Asian population and has a significantly lower survival rate. However, previous studies of the prognostic factors of melanoma-specific survival were all conducted from Western institutions. Here, we performed a retrospective analysis to investigate this issue.
METHODS: Fifty patients diagnosed as having clinical node-negative cutaneous malignant melanoma who underwent sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy at Taipei Veterans General Hospital between January 2007 and December 2018 were enrolled. Patient demographics, tumor characteristics, and lymph node characteristics were evaluated by chart review.
RESULTS: Eighty-two percent of the melanoma in the sample population was ALM. Twelve patients (24.0%) presented at least 1 metastatic sentinel node, and the average number of retrieved SLNs was 3. Of the patients with positive SLNs who proceeded to completion lymph node dissection, only 2 (16.7%) had metastatic nonsentinel nodes (NSNs). The average follow-up time for all patients was 45 months. Recurrence and melanoma-specific death occurred in 21 patients (42.0%) and 15 patients (30.0%), respectively. Melanoma-specific survival was significantly lower in patients with ulcerative lesions (P = 0.005) and more metastatic SLNs (P = 0.036). The overall morbidity rate of completion lymph node dissection was 66.7%.
CONCLUSIONS: The presence of ulcerations and number of metastatic SLNs were the most important prognostic factors in this ALM-dominant Asian cohort. Among patients with clinically negative nodes but positive SLNs, less than one-fourth of patients harbored metastatic NSNs. Completion lymph node dissection carries a relatively high risk of morbidity; therefore, further research regarding predictors of positive NSNs in the Asian population is necessary.