(HealthDay News) — Melanoma that recurs over a decade after initial treatment is not uncommon, occurring in about 7 percent of patients, and is associated with improved survival compared with that seen in patients whose tumors recur earlier, according to a study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Mark B. Faries, M.D., and colleagues from Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., examined the prevalence of late-recurrence melanoma (occurring more than 10 years after potentially curative treatment) among 4,731 patients diagnosed with melanoma treated at their institution who received at least 10 years of follow-up.

The researchers found that 6.9 percent of patients exhibited late recurrence, with late recurrence rates of 6.8 percent at 15 years and 11.3 percent at 20 years for those with no recurrence at 10 years. After accounting for multiple factors, late recurrence was independently associated with younger age and thinner and node negative tumors. Although late recurrences were often distant, they were associated with improved post-recurrence survival compared with recurrences in patients whose cancers recurred within three years.

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“Late melanoma recurrence is not rare,” Faries and colleagues conclude. “It occurs more frequently in certain clinical groups and is associated with improved post-recurrence survival.”

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