Background: Recent data have changed our views of prognostic factors in cutaneous melanoma. While some newer methods have yielded better prognostic information, some insights have evolved as a result of large-scale population-based analyses. Methods: We review current data on several different prognostic factors and divide these factors according to their application in localized primary melanoma or metastatic melanoma. For each prognostic factor, the level of evidence supporting its use and its applicability to clinical practice are considered. Results: For localized primary melanoma, the dominant predictors of survival include lesion thickness, ulceration, and lymph node involvement. Factors such as age, sex, anatomic location, and satellite/in-transit lesions are important in localized melanoma. Factors currently being investigated are tumor vascularity, vascular invasion, mitotic rate, tumor regression, and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. For metastatic melanoma, the most important prognostic factors are site of metastases and the presence of elevated serum lactic dehydrogenase. The value of these prognostic factors to clinicians caring for melanoma patients is discussed. Conclusions: A better understanding of prognostic factors in cutaneous melanoma has evolved over the last decade, allowing oncologists to provide appropriate treatment for their patients. Many of the prognostic factors are interrelated. In the near future, it is expected that several molecular genetic factors will provide more insight into the prognosis of patients with melanoma.
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