Background: Factors that predict melanoma recurrence after a negative sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) are not well-defined. We evaluated melanoma recurrence patterns, factors prognostic for recurrence, and the impact of recurrence on outcomes after a negative SLNB. Methods: The Sentinel Lymph Node Working Group database was evaluated from 1996 to 2016 for negative SLNB melanoma patients. Clinicopathologic characteristics were correlated with recurrence, overall survival (OS), and melanoma-specific survival (MSS). Results: Median follow-up was 32.1 months. Recurrences developed in 558 of 5351 negative SLN patients (10.4%). First-site of recurrence included a local or in-transit recurrence (LITR) in 221 cases (4.1%), nodal recurrence (NR) in 109 cases (2%), and distant recurrence (DR) in 220 cases (4.1%). On multivariable analysis, age, thickness, head/neck or lower extremity primary, and microsatellitosis significantly predicted for an LITR as first-site. Having an LITR as first-site significantly predicted for a subsequent NR and DR, and significantly predicted for worse OS and MSS. Furthermore, thickness and head/neck or lower extremity primary significantly predicted for an NR as first-site, while a prior LITR significantly predicted for a subsequent NR. Factors significantly predictive for a DR included thickness, head/neck or trunk primary, ulceration, and lymphovascular invasion. Patients with any type of locoregional recurrence were at higher risk for a DR. Conclusions: Recurrences occur in 10.4% of negative SLN patients, with LITR and DR being the most common types. Importantly, having an LITR significantly predicts for a subsequent NR and DR, and is prognostic for worse survival after a negative SLNB.
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