The prognostic factors for stage 1, 2 melanoma have been elucidated. Tumor thickness, ulceration of the primary melanoma, and perhaps, primary site may be used to predict the percentage of patients with regional nodal disease or systemic metastases and the prognosis of patients who have only cutaneous disease at diagnosis. Very little is known about prognosis once there is a recurrence. A retrospective, computer-aided chart review identified 4,185 patients registered at the Duke University Melanoma Database who had stage 1, 2 disease at diagnosis. During a mean follow-up period of 7 years, 35.9% experienced a recurrence. Local regional recurrences explained 62.5% to 85.5% of the recurrences. Even after elective node dissections, local regional recurrences explained most relapses (58.1%). Sixty-five percent of the recurrences occurred within the first 3 years of follow-up. There was a pronounced difference in 5-year survival in those patients who suffered a recurrence sometime during their clinical course compared with those who never relapsed (p = 0.00001, for trunk primary melanoma). Patients with local or regional recurrence have a better prognosis than patients who relapse systemically, with 5-year survivals from the time of recurrence of 55% for a patient with a local recurrence, 51% for a patient with a regional nodal recurrence, and 20% for a patient with a systemic recurrence. A multivariate regression analysis identified thickness, ulceration of the primary melanoma, and age and location of the primary melanoma on the extremity as variables that predicted prognosis. The only factors concerning the recurrent state that added prognostic information was the disease-free interval and the presence of systemic metastases as the initial recurrence.
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