Relationship of patient age to tumor factors and outcomes among patients undergoing sentinel node biopsy for melanoma.
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INTRODUCTION: Patient age has been intermittently associated with demographics and outcomes in cutaneous melanoma. We looked at the association of age and patient demographics, tumor features, and melanoma-related outcomes in patients undergoing sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy for melanoma. METHODS: We reviewed demographics (age, gender), tumor features (mean Breslow thickness, ulceration, SLN positivity rates), and outcomes (all-site relapse, progression to stage IV, death from melanoma, complications) from a university-based prospective database of 1633 patients. Patients were grouped by decade of age and the impact of age was examined by univariable and multivariable analyses. RESULTS: Increasing age was directly associated with number of patients referred for SLN biopsy, male gender, head and neck (H&N) tumor location, mean Breslow thickness, tumor ulceration, and with all -site relapse, progression to stage IV, death from melanoma and complication rates. Increasing age was indirectly associated with SLN positivity rates. Comparing ages <30 with ages >60, these trends reached statistical significance for male gender, H&N location, SLN positivity, all-site relapse, progression to stage IV (development of metastases) and death from melanoma. CONCLUSIONS: Referrals for SLN biopsy increase with increasing patient age, yet increasing age is associated with lower SLN positivity rates. This occurs despite the fact that older patients have thicker, more ulcerated tumors, and higher melanoma-related relapse and death rates.