Skip to main content
  • Meeting abstract
  • Open access
  • Published:

Sentinel node biopsy and radical lymph node dissection for advanced melanoma in the elderly


The majority of indications for surgery in melanoma are for the treatment of primary tumor and lymph node metastases. During the last decade, the Sentinel Node Biopsy (SNB), from a research procedure, has become standard of care in most institutions. SNB is normally considered for patients with melanoma > 1 mm and generally about 20% are positive; however, the risk of a positive SNB in a melanoma < 1 mm is still 5%. Usually when SNB is positive a complete lymphadenectomy is performed.

Materials and methods

In the period 2004-2009, 18 elderly patients (median age 68 years) affected by cutaneous melanoma (mean Breslow’s thickness = 3.77 mm), after SNB histologically confirmed regional lymph node involvement, underwent complete lymph node dissection (CLND). We treated 11 of them with groin dissection, in 3 cases bilateral; 4 patients underwent axillar dissection, in one case bilateral; 2 patients underwent neck dissection and another patient underwent groin-axillar dissection. We treated bilateral groin involvement with laparoscopic access for dissection of lumbar-aortic, iliac and obturator lymph nodes.


Disagreeing with literature, 12/18 (67%) of these patients had positive lymph nodes, a high percentage if compared with younger patients’ data. Currently the average follow-up is 25 months. In our sample CLND has a crucial prognostic role (16% vs 41% of deceased in CLND – and CLND + patients respectively).


Elderly melanoma patients are characterized by a higher tumor stage and, in patients with nodal metastases, the prognosis is independently affected by older age. In case of positive SNB the CLND plays a notable prognostic role and a presumable therapeutic role.


  1. Marsden JR, Newton-Bishop JA, et al: Revised U.K. guidelines for the management of cutaneous melanoma 2010. Br J Dermatol. 2010, 163 (2): 238-56. 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09883.x.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Testori A, Stanganelli I, et al: Diagnosis of melanoma in the elderly and surgical implications. Surg Oncol. 2004, 13 (4): 211-21. 10.1016/j.suronc.2004.09.002.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Kruijff S, Bastiaannet E, et al: Detection of Melanoma Nodal Metastases; Differences in Detection Between Elderly and Younger Patients Do Not Affect Survival. Ann Surg Oncol. 2010, 17: 3008-3014. 10.1245/s10434-010-1085-1.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to V Desiato.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Desiato, V., Perrotta, S., Benassai, G. et al. Sentinel node biopsy and radical lymph node dissection for advanced melanoma in the elderly. BMC Geriatr 11 (Suppl 1), A9 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: