Hazard rates for recurrent and secondary cutaneous melanoma: An analysis of 33,384 patients in the German Central Malignant Melanoma Registry

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Knowledge about the risk for recurrence and secondary cutaneous melanoma (CM) is an important basis for patient counseling and planning of follow-up examinations.


This study aimed to analyze stage- and time-dependent hazard rates (HR) and discusses current surveillance recommendations.


Follow-up data of 33,384 patients with incident CM in stages I to III (American Joint Committee on Cancer 2002) were recorded by the German Central Malignant Melanoma Registry in 1976 through 2007. Survival was based on Kaplan-Meier estimates and HRs were calculated.


Recurrences were recorded in 4999 patients (stage I, 7.1%; stage II, 32.8%; and stage III, 51.0%). Ten-year recurrence-free survival was 78.9% (95% confidence interval 73.1–90.5); in stage I, 89.0%; stage II, 56.9%; and stage III, 36.0%. Whereas HR for recurrent CM showed a constantly low level less than or equal to 1:125 per year for stage IA, clearly higher HRs of greater than or equal to 1:40 were recorded in stage IB for the first 3 years and generally in stages II to III. Of all patients 2.3% developed secondary melanomas, with a consistently low HR of less than 1:220 per year.


As German recommendations discontinued regular follow-up examinations after 10 years, no information can be given beyond this time point. Follow-up data of longer than 5 years were available in 41.4% of patients.


For patients at stage IA with thin melanoma and low HR for recurrent CM the need for surveillance remains questionable. For patients with higher HR greater than 1:40 per year, intensified surveillance strategies should be taken into account.

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