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Melanoma statistics and outlook

Men and women discussing melanoma skin cancer

This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with malignant melanoma. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Melanoma statistics and outlook

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With melanoma, the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed (the stage). If melanoma is diagnosed early, the survival statistics are very good.

Below we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of melanoma. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every page of Cancer Research UK's patient information. The statistics are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you need to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information. Remember you can skip this page if you don't want to read it, you can always come back to it.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

 

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About the information on this page

On this page, is detailed information about the survival rates for malignant melanoma of the skin. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

 

Cancer statistics in general

Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, you may find it helpful to go to our section about different types of cancer statistics before you read the information below.

Remember that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two patients are exactly alike and how well treatment works also varies from one person to another. You should feel free to ask your doctor about your prognosis, but not even your doctor can tell you for sure what will happen.

You may hear doctors use the term 5 year survival. This does not mean you will only live 5 years. It relates to the number of people who are alive 5 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for at least 5 years after treatment in any research study. This is because there is only a small chance of the cancer coming back more than 5 years after treatment. Doctors do not like to say these people are cured because there is that small chance. So they use the term 5 year survival instead.

Please note that there are no national UK statistics available for different stages of melanoma skin cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each page of Cancer Research UK's patient information. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and can't tell you exactly what will happen in your situation.

 

Overall outlook

The main thing you should know is that if you have had an early melanoma, with no spread to your lymph nodes or any other part of your body, then it is highly likely that simply removing it will cure you. Melanoma is more difficult to treat if it has spread deeply into the skin, but most people are diagnosed with early stage melanoma. 

The outlook is slightly better for women than it is for men. We don't know exactly why this is. It may be because women are more likely to see a doctor about their melanoma at an earlier stage.

The overall outlook statistics below are for people diagnosed with melanoma in England and Wales.

More than 95 out of every 100 men (95%) will survive for a year or more after they are diagnosed with melanoma. Almost 90 out of every 100 men (90%) will survive for 5 years or more. And almost 90 out of every 100 men (90%) will survive for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Almost all women (100%) will survive for a year or more after they are diagnosed with melanoma. More than 90 out of every 100 women (90%) will survive for 5 years or more. And more than 90 out of every 100 women (90%) will survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis. 

 

Outlook by stage

As with many other types of cancer, the outcome depends on how advanced your cancer is when it is diagnosed. In other words, the stage of your melanoma.

If melanoma is diagnosed early, the survival statistics are very good. Most stage 1 and stage 2 melanomas can be cured.

One of the main factors affecting survival for people with melanoma is the thickness of the tumour when it is diagnosed. Thickness is part of the staging for melanoma, and you can read more about melanoma thickness on the melanoma stages page. Survival rates can also be affected if the melanoma is ulcerated. Ulcerated means the covering layer of skin over the tumour is broken. So ulceration is included in the staging

Another factor that seems to affect survival rates for people with melanoma is social class. Overall, people from higher social classes tend to have better survival rates than people from lower social classes. This may be because people from higher social classes are more aware of the symptoms of melanoma and so may see a doctor at an earlier stage, but we don't really know the reason for sure.

Survival statistics are available for each stage of melanoma in one area of England. These figures are for men and women diagnosed between 2002 and 2006.

Stage 1

Almost all people diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma (100%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

Stage 2

Almost 80 out of 100 men diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma (80%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis. And almost 90 out of 100 women with stage 2 melanoma (90%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

Stage 3

50 out of 100 men diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma (50%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. And more than 50 out of 100 women with stage 3 melanoma (50 %) will survive for 5 years or more.

Stage 4

Understandably, the survival statistics for stage 4 melanoma are lower than for earlier stages. Stage 4 means that the cancer has spread to other areas of the skin or to another part of the body. Almost 10 out of 100 of men with stage 4 melanoma (10%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. Around 25 out of 100 women with stage 4 melanoma (25%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

 

Other factors

Another factors that can affect your prognosis if you have a later stage melanoma is how well you are overall. Doctors have a way of grading how well you are. They call this your performance status. You may see this written PS. A score of 0 means you are completely able to look after yourself. A score of 1 means you can do most things for yourself, but need some help. The scores continue to go up, depending on how much help you need. This is relevant to survival because overall, the fitter people are, the better able they are to cope with their melanoma and treatment.

 

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people for example. The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. They also don't tell us how that treatment may have affected their survival. Many individual factors will determine your own treatment and outlook.

 

Clinical trials

Research evidence shows that taking part in clinical trials may improve outlook. No one is completely sure why this is. It is probably partly to do with your doctors and nurses monitoring you more closely if you are in a trial. For example, you may have more scans and blood tests. There is more information in the trials and research section and there you can search our clinical trials database for trials recruiting for melanoma. 

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Updated: 14 November 2014