In patients with cutaneous melanoma (CM), the time span between resection of the primary tumour and sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) as well as the subsequent interval between SLNB and complete lymph node dissection (CLND) varies greatly.
To determine whether very early timing of SLNB after resection of the primary tumour or timing of CLND after SLNB, respectively, affect the clinical outcome of CM patients compared to longer time intervals.
We compared the time spans between complete resection of the primary tumour and SLNB or the interval between SLNB and CLND in a cohort of 896 melanoma patients who had underwent SLNB. An interval between primary resection and SLNB or between SLNB and CLND of up to 7 days was classified as very early (VE-SLNB and VE-CLND, respectively). This time span was compared to intervals of greater than 7 days. Univariate- and multivariate statistics were performed.
VE-SLNB was significantly associated with the presence of micro-metastases. However, this was probably due to the fact that tumour thickness was significantly higher in VE-SLNB patients compared to patients with later SLNB. Importantly, VE-SLNB and VE-CLND were not significantly associated with disease relapse and melanoma-specific death, respectively.
VE-SLNB and VE-CLND neither improved nor worsened the clinical outcome of patients. Thus, timing of SLNB and CLND have no influence on the overall clinical outcome of melanoma patients. Our findings support the rational planning of lymph node surgery after resection of the primary tumour and provide help for effective patient counseling.

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