Malignant melanoma in children.
BACKGROUND: Cutaneous melanoma is an uncommon malignancy in children and for this reason, there is little information available regarding the timing and patterns of recurrence in children with this disease. This study reviews the experience at a single institution (Duke University Melanoma Clinic) in treating children with malignant melanoma. METHODS: Eighty-five patients < or = 18 years of age with malignant melanoma have been treated. All but three patients were over the age of 10; 73% of them were > 14. As for adults, treatment consisted of wide local excision of all primary lesions with primary closure or split-thickness skin graft, as needed. In addition, 22 patients underwent dissection of regional lymph nodes. Patients whose tumors had aggressive pathologic characteristics were treated with an adjuvant immunotherapy protocol. Patients with recurrence at distant sites were offered combination chemotherapy. RESULTS: Patients and pathologic characteristics of sex, race, primary site, histologic type, tumor thickness, and Clark level were similar to those observed in adults. Actuarial survival rates (79% versus 77% at 5 years) of the pediatric and adult Stage I melanoma patients were also not significantly different. Children had a greater incidence of recurrence after initial treatment, although recurrence tended to happen after a longer disease-free interval than for adults. Half of the 79 children who were first seen with Stage I disease have suffered a relapse, but more than one-third were disease free for > or = 5 years after initial treatment. Of the 18 patients who were disease free for > or = 7 years, 12 (67%) ultimately had recurrent disease, including five patients who had recurrences > 13 years after initial diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: The early age at which malignant melanoma may occur and the significant potential for very late recurrence mandate that pediatricians and other primary care physicians consider the diagnosis of melanoma even in young patients with new skin lesions and that patients treated for melanoma be carefully followed for a lifetime.
Davidoff, AM; Cirrincione, C; Seigler, HF
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