Mini Surgery for Melanoma

Smaller surgical area was just as effective in removing melanoma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Surgery for any treatment can leave one nasty scar. For melanoma, this scar could soon turn into a minor blemish.

Reasearchers from the Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm Söder Hospital conducted a trial involving melanoma patients with tumors two millimeters in thickness. One group underwent a two centimeter incision of the area around the tumor and another group had four centimeters surgically removed.

Researchers determined that the two centimeter surgery had a similar number of deaths and repeat incidents of melanoma as the four centimeter surgery.

"Moles, if it changes in appearance, consult your physician."

Professor John F. Thompson, of the Melanoma Institute Australia, and Dr. David W. Ollila, of the Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, said the next step is to see if an even smaller surgical procedure can be used as effectively. 

Melanoma is measured by how thick the tumor is. Melanoma begins in the layer underneath the skin, it soon grows vertically. As the thickness increases, the survival rate decreases.

Surgery is usually required to remove the malignant melanoma tumor. In order to make sure the malignant tumor was removed, an area surrounding the tumor is removed to make sure the tumor did not spread. If a large area is removed, the skin is closed using skin grafts or complicated surgeries like skin flap reconstruction. A smaller area would not require such procedures.

During the trial 465 patients had a two centimeter surgical procedure and 471 had a four centimeter surgical procedure to remove the malignant tumor. Researchers followed up approximately seven years later and the number of deaths and repeat melanoma incidents were at similar levels. In the two centimeter group, 181 individuals died compared to 177 in the four centimeter group. The number of patients who had repeat incidents were the same for both groups at 44 percent.

The smaller surgical procedure is just as effective as the larger procedure and won't require additional surgery to close the skin. This could lead to lower health care costs and a decrease in the severity of complications from surgery.

This study was published in The Lancet.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 25, 2011
Last Updated:
August 6, 2012