Prognostic significance of regression and mitotic rate in head and neck cutaneous melanoma

Elizabeth Kim, Isaac Obermeyer, Nathan Rubin, Samir S. Khariwala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Importance: While regression is a commonly reported microscopic feature of melanoma, its prognostic significance is unclear. Objective: To examine the impact of regression on sentinel node status and the likelihood of recurrence in primary cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck. Design: Retrospective analysis of 191 adults who underwent surgical management for primary cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck between May 2002 and March 2019. Setting: Tertiary academic center. Participants: Patients appropriate for the study were identified by the Academic Health Center Information Exchange using a list of current procedural terminology codes. One hundred and ninety-one cases of invasive melanoma of the head and neck were included from 830 patients identified. Clinical features assessed for each patient included age, sex, location of primary lesion, date of diagnosis, and current disease status (alive with or without disease). Histologic features assessed were histological melanoma subtype (nodular vs non-nodular), Breslow thickness, Clark level, presence/absence of ulceration, mitotic rate per square millimeter, and regression. If applicable, sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) status, date of recurrence, interval treatments, and date of death related to melanoma were recorded. Exclusion criteria included melanoma outside the anatomic parameters of head and neck, ocular or choroidal melanoma, mucosal melanoma, metastatic melanoma to the head or neck with no known primary tumor, melanoma of the head or neck with no surgical intervention, and non-melanoma skin cancers of the head and neck. Intervention/Exposure: Surgery for cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck. Main Outcome(s) and Measure(s): The association between presence of regression and Breslow thickness, sentinel node status, and recurrence. Results: Of the 191 patients identified, 30.9% were female and 69.1% were male with a mean age at diagnosis of 62.6 (range 20-97) years. Mean Breslow thickness was 1.2 mm in those with regression and 2.0 mm in those without regression. In patients with regression, 17.6% had a positive sentinel node, and 13.0% experienced a recurrence. In patients without regression, 26.5% had a positive sentinel node, and 31.4% experienced a recurrence. When adjusted for other factors above, regression was not associated with positive sentinel node (odds ratio [OR] = 0.59, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.13-2.00) or recurrence (OR = 0.33, CI = 0.07-1.01). Mitotic rate >2 was associated with recurrence (OR = 2.71, CI = 1.11-6.75, P =.03). Conclusions and Relevance: Patients with presence of regression had thinner melanomas and trended toward decreased rates of sentinel node positivity and recurrence, suggesting regression may not be a negative prognostic indicator in patients with cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-115
Number of pages7
JournalLaryngoscope investigative otolaryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 16 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by NIH grant P30CA077598 utilizing the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core shared resource of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health Award Number UL1-TR002494. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. on behalf of The Triological Society.


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