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 106,110 adults (62,260 men and 43,850 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive melanoma of the skin. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer among men. It is also the fifth 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.
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. In 2020, about 2,400 cases of melanoma were estimated to be diagnosed in people aged 15 to 29.
The number of people diagnosed with melanoma has risen sharply over the past 3 decades. From 2008 to 2017, rates increased by around 2% each year. However, the rates of diagnosis vary by age.
Specifically, the number of adolescents aged 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 for 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 deaths from skin cancer. It is estimated that 7,180 deaths (4,600 men and 2,580 women) from melanoma will occur this year. However, from 2014 to 2018, deaths from melanoma have decreased by almost 5% in adults older than 50 and by 7% in those younger than 50.
Many 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 93%.
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 66%. However, this number is different for every patient and depends on the number of lymph nodes involved, genetic changes, 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 27%. Approximately 4% of cases are diagnosed at this stage. 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) publications, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, and the ACS website (sources accessed January 2021).
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.