Background: The proportion of positive among examined lymph nodes (lymph node ratio [LNR]) has been recently proposed as an useful and easy-to-calculate prognostic factor for patients with cutaneous melanoma. However, its independence from the standard prognostic system TNM has not been formally proven in a large series of patients. Methods: Patients with histologically proven cutaneous melanoma were identified from the Surveillance Epidemiology End Results database. Disease-specific survival was the clinical outcome of interest. The prognostic ability of conventional factors and LNR was assessed by multivariable survival analysis using the Cox regression model. Results: Eligible patients (n = 8,177) were diagnosed with melanoma between 1998 and 2006. Among lymph node-positive cases (n = 3,872), most LNR values ranged from 1% to 10% (n = 2,187). In the whole series (≥5 lymph nodes examined) LNR significantly contributed to the Cox model independently of the TNM effect on survival (hazard ratio, 1.28; 95% confidence interval, 1.23-1.32; P <.0001). On subgroup analysis, the significant and independent prognostic value of LNR was confirmed both in patients with ≥10 lymph nodes examined (n = 4,381) and in those with TNM stage III disease (n = 3,658). In all cases, LNR increased the prognostic accuracy of the survival model. Conclusion: In this large series of patients, the LNR independently predicted disease-specific survival, improving the prognostic accuracy of the TNM system. Accordingly, the LNR should be taken into account for the stratification of patients' risk, both in clinical and research settings.
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