Single and multifactorial analyses were used to evaluate prognosis and results of surgical treatment in 534 clinical Stage I patients with head and neck cutaneous melanoma treated at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (U.S.A.) and the University of Sydney (Australia), This computerized data base was prospectively accumulated in over 90% of cases. Melanomas were about equally distributed between men and women. They were located on the skin of the face in 47%, neck in 27%, scalp in 13%, and the ear in 13% of patients. Both the results of the prognostic factors analyses and the surgical treatment demonstrated that lentigo maligna melanoma (LMM) was distinct from the other two growth patterns, superficial spreading melanoma and nodular melanoma (SSM and NM). In a multifactorial analysis of the 453 patients with SSM and NM, the dominant prognostic variables were tumor thickness= (p < 0.00001), anatomic subsite (p = 0.0213), and ulceration (p < 0.0289). Patients with melanomas of the scalp or neck subsites fared worse than those with tumors located on the face or ear. The results differed for LMM, where thickness was not a significant predictor of survival, and the most dominant prognostic variable was ulceration (p = 0.0042). Local recurrence rates were low, being 2.4% for tumors < 2.5 mm in thickness. Patients with SSM and NM lesions located on the head and neck had a lower survival rate than those with extremity melanomas in every tumor thickness category, although only those in the 0.76 to 1.49 mm thickness subgroup were significantly different (p = 0.0007). After 5 years of follow-up, patients who underwent an elective lymph node dissection for SSM and NM with a thickness range of 1.5 to 3.99 mm had a better survival (72%) than patients with melanomas of equivalent thickness whose initial treatment was wide excision alone (45%). LMM had a less aggressive biologic behavior compared to SSM or NM and was treated more conservatively. Thus, LMM lesions had an 85% 10-year survival rate with wide excision only, and there was no significant improvement in survival with ELND. Growth patterns, tumor thickness, ulceration, and anatomic subsites should be considered when evaluating risk factors and when making treatment decisions in head and neck melanoma patients.
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