ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with melanoma each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.
This year an estimated 100,350 adults (60,190 men and 40,160 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive melanoma of the skin. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer among men and the sixth most common cancer among women.
Melanoma is 20 times more common in white people than in black people. The average age of diagnosis is 65. Before age 50, more women are diagnosed with melanoma than men. However, by age 65, men are 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma. By age 80, men are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.
The development of melanoma is more common as people grow older, but it also develops in younger people, including those younger than 30 years old. It is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in young adults, particularly for women. This year, about 2,400 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in people age 15 to 29.
The number of people diagnosed with melanoma has risen sharply over the past 3 decades, although this varies by age. In men and women ages 50 and older, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma increased more than 2% per year from 2007 to 2016. However, the rate decreased by more than 1% per year in people younger than 50.
Specifically, the number of adolescents age 15 to 19 diagnosed with melanoma declined 6% each year between 2007 and 2016. The number of adults in their 20s diagnosed with the disease decreased by 3%. For adults in their 30s, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma remained steady in women and dropped slightly for men. The decrease in melanoma in younger people is likely due in part to increased sun-protection behaviors and a reduction in indoor tanning.
Melanoma accounts for about 1% of all skin cancers diagnosed in the United States, but it causes most of the skin cancer deaths. It is estimated that 6,850 deaths (4,610 men and 2,240 women) from melanoma will occur this year. However, from 2013 to 2017, deaths from melanoma have decreased by almost 6% in adults older than 50 and by 7% in those younger than 50.
Most people with melanoma are cured by their initial surgery. The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. Among all people with melanoma of the skin, from the time of initial diagnosis, the 5-year survival is 92%.
Overall survival at 5 years depends on the thickness of the primary melanoma, whether the lymph nodes are involved, and whether there is spread of melanoma to distant sites. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. For people with "thin melanoma," defined as being less than 1 millimeter in maximal thickness, that has not spread to lymph nodes or other distant sites, the 5-year survival is 99%.
However, for people with thicker melanoma, the 5-year survival may be as low as 80%. Survival rates at 5 years for people with melanoma that has spread to the nearby lymph nodes is 65%. However, this number is different for every patient and depends on the number of lymph nodes involved, the amount of tumor in the involved lymph node(s), and the features of the primary melanoma (such as thickness and whether ulceration is present or absent).
If melanoma has spread to other, distant parts of the body, the survival rate is lower, about 25%. However, survival varies depending on a number of factors. These factors are explained in detail in the Diagnosis and Stages sections.
It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with melanoma are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States.
It is also important to know that these statistics do not yet reflect the effects of newer treatments for metastatic melanoma (see Types of Treatment). The pace of melanoma research is moving quickly, especially over the last 5 years. Experts measure survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or newer treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.
Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, and the ACS website (January 2020).
The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers a drawing of the structures that make up the skin. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.