Melanoma: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2015

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about how many people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year and some general survival information. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

This year an estimated 73,870 adults (42,670 men and 31,200 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive melanoma, which is melanoma that extends deep into the skin. It is estimated that 9,940 deaths (6,640 men and 3,300 women) from melanoma will occur this year. Melanoma accounts for less than 2% of all skin cancers diagnosed in the United States, but it causes most of the deaths.

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer among men and the seventh most common cancer in women. Although more women are diagnosed with melanoma before age 50, by age 65, the rate is more than two times higher in men. By age 80, the rate in men is nearly three times higher than in women.

Most people with melanoma are cured by their initial surgery. The five-year survival rate is the percentage of people who survive at least five years after the cancer is found. The five-year survival rate of people with melanoma is 91%. The ten-year survival rate is 89%.

Overall survival depends upon thickness of the primary melanoma, whether the lymph nodes are involved, and whether there is spread of melanoma to distant sites. Lymph nodes are the small, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. For early-stage melanoma that is only located near where it started, the five-year survival rate is 98%. The five-year survival rates for melanoma that has spread to the nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body are 63% and 16% respectively. However, survival rates vary depending on a number of factors. These factors are explained in detail in the Diagnosis and Stages sections.

Cancer survival statistics should be interpreted with caution. These estimates are based on data from thousands of people with this type of cancer in the United States each year, so the actual risk for a particular individual may be different.

Also, it is important to know that these statistics are based on data from 7 to 30 years ago and do not reflect the effects of newer treatments for metastatic melanoma (see the Treatment Options section). The pace of melanoma research is rapid, especially over the last 5 years. It is not possible to tell a person how long he or she will live with melanoma. Because the survival statistics are measured in multi-year intervals, they may not represent recent advances made in the treatment or diagnosis of this cancer. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society’s publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2015.

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations, and it offers a drawing of the structures that make up the skin. Or, use the menu on the left side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.