Background: Numerous predictive factors for cutaneous melanoma metastases to sentinel lymph nodes have been identified; however, few have been found to be reproducibly significant. This study investigated the significance of factors for predicting regional nodal disease in cutaneous melanoma using a large multicenter database. Methods: Seventeen institutions submitted retrospective and prospective data on 3463 patients undergoing sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy for primary melanoma. Multiple demographic and tumor factors were analyzed for correlation with a positive SLN. Univariate and multivariate statistical analyses were performed. Results: Of 3445 analyzable patients, 561 (16.3%) had a positive SLN biopsy. In multivariate analysis of 1526 patients with complete records for 10 variables, increasing Breslow thickness, lymphovascular invasion, ulceration, younger age, the absence of regression, and tumor location on the trunk were statistically significant predictors of a positive SLN. Conclusions: These results confirm the predictive significance of the well-established variables of Breslow thickness, ulceration, age, and location, as well as consistently reported but less well-established variables such as lymphovascular invasion. In addition, the presence of regression was associated with a lower likelihood of a positive SLN. Consideration of multiple tumor parameters should influence the decision for SLN biopsy and the estimation of nodal metastatic disease risk.
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