Life expectancy is increasing in most developed countries, and elderly people have the highest incidence of melanoma.
To identify characteristics of melanoma and its management in the elderly compared with younger patients.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Retrospective population-based study of incident cases of primary melanoma in 1621 patients with stage I or II melanoma in 2004 and 2008. Questionnaires administered to physicians and a survey of cancer registries and pathology laboratories were used to obtain data. The study was conducted in 5 regions in northeastern France.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Characteristics of patients and tumors, circumstances of diagnosis, and further management in older patients (≥70 years, 487 patients [30.0%]) compared with younger ones (<70 years, 1134 [70.0%]).
Older patients had more frequent melanomas of the head and neck (29.4% vs 8.7%; P < .001) and of the nodular, lentigo maligna, or acral lentiginous histologic subtypes. They had thicker and more frequently ulcerated tumors, categorized as T3 or T4 in 36.7% of cases vs 20.1% in younger patients. Diagnosis of melanoma occurred more frequently in a general practice setting and less frequently in direct consultation with a dermatologist or regular screening for skin cancer. Time to definitive excision was longer in older patients, and 16.8% of them compared with 5.0% of the younger population had insufficient excision margins (P < .001). A sentinel lymph node biopsy was performed in 23.3% of the older patients with melanoma thicker than 1 mm vs 41.4% in the younger patients (P < .001). Adjuvant therapy was less frequently started in older patients and was prematurely stopped in a higher proportion of that population.
Conclusions and Relevance
Age-related variations are observed at every step of melanoma management. The most important concerns are access of elderly people to settings for early diagnosis and excision with appropriate margins.