The incidence of cutaneous melanoma is rising steadily, and the rate of increase is among the highest for any form of cancer. Although the reliability of age as a prognostic factor is debatable, several studies suggest that age has an important prognostic use.
Age alone does not predict a poor prognosis in the older patient with melanoma.
University teaching hospital.
A retrospective review was undertaken to identify patients aged 65 years or older with intermediate-thickness melanoma (1-4 mm). Two hundred thirteen such patients were identified. Data are given as mean ± SD.
The mean age was 72.2 ± 6.1 years. The mean follow-up was 49 months. By univariate analysis, the mean disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) for lymph node–positive patients was 36.0 ± 9.6 and 56.0 ± 10.6 months, respectively. The mean DFS for node-negative patients was 155.0 ± 9.8 months, and the mean OS was 166.0 ± 9.2 months (P<.001 for both). The mean DFS and OS for women were 151.0 ± 11.2 and 163.0 ± 10.9 months, respectively. In contrast, men had 116.0 ± 9.5 months' DFS and 127.0 ± 9.0 months' OS (P = .01 for both). By multivariate analysis, lymph node status was the most predictive variable for DFS and OS (P<.001 for both). Sex tended to affect OS (P = .02) but did not achieve prognostic significance on DFS (P = .09). Other factors such as location, ulceration, histological type, and mitoses per square millimeter failed to show any prognostic significance. Stratification into 3 age groups (65-70, 71-80, and >80 years) had no significant effect on DFS (P = .95) or OS (P = .92).
Lymph node status is the most important prognostic factor in older patients with intermediate-thickness melanoma. Identification of high-risk factors may help stratify these patients for recommendation of more aggressive treatment or adjuvant therapies. Among these patients, age alone was not a significant prognostic factor in the clinical management of melanoma.