Background: Our aim was to demonstrate that, despite advances in treatment and surveillance of node-positive cutaneous melanoma, rates of overall survival (OS) and melanoma-specific survival (MSS) have not changed over the last two decades. Methods: We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database of the National Cancer Institute to identify patients with node-positive cutaneous melanoma. Patients were categorized by treatment era; the first era encompassed patients diagnosed from 1988 to 1999 and the second era 2000 to 2006. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards models compared rates of OS and MSS between treatment eras while controlling for known prognostic factors. We reported risks of death as hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) and set significance at P ≤ 0.05. Results: Entrance criteria were met by 6,868 patients, 1,631 (23.8%) treated in era I and 5,237 (76.3%) treated in era II. On multivariate analysis, era II patients did not demonstrate a significantly different risk of death from any cause (HR 0.89, CI 0.79-1.01; P < 0.08), but they did have a lower risk of melanoma-specific mortality (HR 0.81, CI 0.71-0.93; P = 0.003) relative to their era I counterparts. Conclusions: Over nearly two decades, MSS but not OS has improved for AJCC stage III melanoma patients. Stage migration is likely responsible for any improvement in MSS among patients in the most recently diagnosed era.
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