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Skin cancer survival statistics

One-, five- and ten-year survival statistics for malignant melanoma of the skin (cutaneous) by age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by stage at diagnosis and geographic variation. The ICD code for malignant melanoma of the skin is ICD-10 C43.

Survival data for non-melanoma skin cancer (ICD-10 C44) is not routinely available, and is therefore not shown.

The statistics on these pages give an overall picture of survival. Unless otherwise stated, the statistics include all adults diagnosed with malignant melanoma of the skin (melanomas can also occur in other body organs, such as the eye, but such data are not shown here; on this page “malignant melanoma” refers to malignant melanoma of the skin only), at all ages, stages and co-morbidities. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics. If you are a patient, you will probably find our CancerHelp pages more relevant and useful.

The survival statistics presented here are for England in 2005-2009 (followed up to 2010). Survival data for England in 2006-2010 (followed up to 2011) is available but used a different method, is not comparable with the data here and had no historical trends so has not been used here.

 

One-, five- and ten-year survival

Age-standardised relative survival for malignant melanoma in England during 2005-2009 shows that 96% of men survive their disease for at least one year, falling to 84% surviving for five years or more (Table 3.1).1,2 Survival for women is slightly higher, with 98% surviving for one year or more, and 92% surviving for at least five years. Broadly similar survival has been reported for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.3-5

Survival continues to fall slightly beyond five years after diagnosis, with 80% of men and 90% of women predicted to survive for at least ten years (Table 3.1).2

Table 3.1: Malignant Melanoma (C43), One-, Five- and Ten-Year Age-Standardised Relative Survival, Adults (Aged 15-99), England 2005-2009 and 2009

One-Year Five-Year Ten-Year
Sex 2005-2009 2005-2009 2009
Men 95.7 83.6 79.7
Women 97.7 91.6 90.1

Download this table XLS (31KB) PPT (122KB) PDF (18KB)

Ten-year survival has been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2009 (using the hybrid approach).

Five-year survival for malignant melanoma is amongst the highest of the 21 most common cancers in England.1 However, with an absolute survival difference of 8%, malignant melanoma shows one of the largest disparities in five-year survival between the sexes. Differences in the thickness of tumours between men and women may explain some of the variation, as well as diverse attitudes to health-related behaviour.6,7 Like with most cancers, treatment for malignant melanoma is much more effective when the disease is caught at an early stage.

section reviewed 22/07/13
section updated 22/07/13

 

By age

As with nearly all cancers, survival for malignant melanoma is higher in younger men and women, even after taking account of the higher background mortality in older people. The reasons for this are likely to include a combination of better general health, more effective response to treatment and earlier diagnosis in younger people overall.

In men, five-year relative survival for malignant melanoma in England during 2005-2009 ranges from 90% in 15-39 year-olds to 64% in 80-99 year-olds (Figure 3.1).1 Five-year survival is higher in women than men across all age groups, ranging from 96% in 15-39 year-olds to 85% in 80-99 year-olds.


Figure 3.1: Malignant Melanoma (C43), Five-Year Relative Survival by Age, England 2005-2009

surv_5yr_age_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (46KB) PPT (127KB) PDF (46KB)

section reviewed 22/07/13
section updated 22/07/13

 

Trends over time

As with the majority of cancers, survival for malignant melanoma is improving. This can generally be attributed to faster diagnosis and improvements in treatment. However, there is still scope for improvement and increasing cancer survival remains a major priority of Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer.8

One-year survival can be used as an indicator of early diagnosis, since death before one year is likely to be due to the disease being diagnosed at a late stage. In men, one-year age-standardised relative survival for malignant melanoma in England increased from 79% during 1971-1975 to 96% during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.2).1,2 In women, one-year survival increased from 89% to 98% over the same time periods, respectively. Part of the increase in both sexes will be due to increased awareness and earlier diagnosis of the disease as a result of public heath campaigns such as SunSmart; concomitantly, several studies have reported increasing proportions of thin, early stage tumours in recent years.6,9,10

Whilst survival is still influenced by early diagnosis after five years, it is also strongly dependent on the success of treatment. In men, five-year age-standardised relative survival for malignant melanoma in England increased from 47% during 1971-1975 to 84% during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.2).1,2 In women, five-year relative survival increased from 65% to 92% over the same time periods, respectively.

Ten-year age-standardised relative survival for men diagnosed with malignant melanoma in England increased from 39% during 1971-1975 to a predicted 80% in 2009 (Figure 3.2).1,2 In women, ten-year survival increased from 58% to a predicted 90% over the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.2: Malignant Melanoma (C43), Age-Standardised Relative Survival, Adults (Aged 15-99), England, 1971-2009

One-, Five- and Ten-Year

surv_1_5_10yrtr_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (51KB) PPT (132KB) PDF (67KB)

One-Year

surv_1yr_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (48KB) PPT (129KB) PDF (51KB)

Five-Year

surv_5yr_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (48KB) PPT (129KB) PDF (51KB)

Ten-Year

surv_10yr_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (47KB) PPT (128KB) PDF (49KB)

Ten-year survival has been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2009 (using the hybrid approach).2

section reviewed 22/07/13
section updated 22/07/13

Survival by stage is not yet routinely available for the UK due to inconsistencies in the collecting and recording of staging data in the past; this is improving, however, and plans for a nationally consistent dataset in England are underway.8 In the meantime, survival by stage is available for the former Anglia Cancer Network in the east of England for the period 2006-2010.11 Anglia covers around 5% of the population of England and may not be representative of the country as a whole due to differences in underlying demographic factors (such as age, deprivation or ethnicity), as well as variation in local healthcare provision standards and policies. Nonetheless, the Anglia data enable valuable comparisons between stage at diagnosis and cancer survival to be made.

Survival for malignant melanoma is strongly related to stage of the disease at diagnosis.11 The majority (66%) of patients present at stage I.11 Just 1% of patients present with metastases (stage IV).

One-year relative survival is highest for patients presenting at stage I, with 101% of men and women surviving for at least one year (Figure 3.3).11 In comparison, one-year survival is considerably lower for those diagnosed with stage IV disease (10% for men and 35% for women). As very few patients are diagnosed at Stage IV, however, the one-year survival statistics have wide confidence intervals and should therefore be interpreted with caution. There are no significant sex differences at any of the stages.

Figure 3.3: Malignant Melanoma (C43), One-Year Relative Survival by Stage, Adults (Aged 15-99), Former Anglia Cancer Network, 2006-2010

surv_1yr_stage_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (47KB) PPT (128KB) PDF (50KB)

Note: Relative survival can be greater than 100% because it accounts for background mortality. A relative survival figure greater than 100 indicates that people diagnosed have a better chance of surviving one or five years after diagnosis than the general population.

Five-year survival for malignant melanoma is similarly strongly related to the stage of the disease at diagnosis, but there is a much more gradual decrease in survival between stages I and IV. Five-year relative survival ranges from 102% (for men) and 100% (for women) at Stage I to 8% (for men) and 25% (for women) at Stage IV (Figure 3.4).11 As expected, five-year survival is significantly lower than one-year survival across most known-stage groups within each sex. The exceptions are men and women presenting at Stage I, whose five-year survival remains at 100%, and men and women presenting at Stage IV, in whom survival does not differ significantly between one and five years (though, as before, low patient numbers preclude reliable analysis).

Figure 3.4: Malignant Melanoma (C43), Five-Year Relative Survival by Stage, Adults (Aged 15-99), Former Anglia Cancer Network, 2002-2006

surv_5yr_stage_mmelanoma.swf

Download this chart XLS (46KB) PPT (128KB) PDF (50KB)

Note: Relative survival can be greater than 100% because it accounts for background mortality. A relative survival figure greater than 100 indicates that people diagnosed have a better chance of surviving one or five years after diagnosis than the general population.

section reviewed 22/07/13
section updated 22/07/13

 

In Europe

EUROCARE (European Cancer Registry-based study on survival and care of cancer patients) is a series of cancer registry-based comparisons of cancer survival by country in Europe.12 Whilst the studies have some unavoidable limitations and the survival statistics should be viewed with some caution,13-16 EUROCARE is the largest co-ordinated effort at providing comparative survival statistics across Europe.

The most recent study in the series, EUROCARE-4, used data collected from 82 cancer registries in 23 European countries for the analysis of 2.7 million adult cancer patients diagnosed in the period 1995-1999.17,18

Malignant melanoma is one of the few cancers in which five-year relative survival in England is significantly higher than the European average. The study showed considerable variation within the UK, however, with significantly lower five-year survival in Wales (74%) compared with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (85%, 89% and 93%, respectively).17,18 Such comparatively low survival in Wales may be explained by differences in stage at diagnosis, particularly among the more deprived men and women who seem to fare worse compared with their UK counterparts.19 Differences in public awareness and early diagnosis initiatives may also play a role.

It has been estimated that around 930 deaths could be avoided within five years of diagnosis if malignant melanoma survival in Britain equalled the best in Europe.20

section reviewed 22/07/13
section updated 22/07/13

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References for skin cancer survival

  1. Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer survival in England: Patients diagnosed 2005-2009 and followed up to 2010. London: ONS; 2011.
  2. Ten-year predicted survival estimates were provided by the Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on request, December 2012.
  3. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU). Cancer Survival Trends in Wales 1985-2004. Cardiff: WCISU; 2010.
  4. Information Services Division Scotland (ISD Scotland). Cancer Statistics. Malignant melanoma of the skin. Accessed September 2011.
  5. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR). Cancer Survival Online Statistics. Malignant melanoma. Accessed September 2011.
  6. MacKie RM, Bray CA, Hole DJ, et al. Incidence of and survival from malignant melanoma in Scotland: an epidemiological study. Lancet 2002; 360:587-91.
  7. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Mortality, Incidence and Gender: Malignant Melanoma - NCIN Data Briefing. London: NCIN; 2012.
  8. Department of Health. Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. London: Department of Health; 2011.
  9. Downing A, Newton-Bishop JA, Forman D. Recent trends in cutaneous malignant melanoma in the Yorkshire region of England; incidence, mortality and survival in relation to stage of disease, 1993-2003. Br J Cancer 2006; 95:91-5.
  10. Murray CS, Stockton DL, Doherty VR. Thick melanoma: the challenge persists. Br J Dermatol 2005; 152:104-9.
  11. The National Cancer Registration Service, Eastern Office. Personal communication.
  12. Istituto Superiore di Sanità. EUROCARE: Survival of Cancer Patients in Europe. Rome, Italy: Istituto Superiore di Sanità. Available from http://www.eurocare.it/
  13. Berrino F. The EUROCARE Study: strengths, limitations and perspectives of population-based, comparative survival studies. Ann Oncol 2003; 14 Suppl 5:v9-13.
  14. Anderson WJ, Murtagh C. Cancer survival statistics should be viewed with caution. Lancet Oncol 2007; 8:1052-3; author reply 1053-4.
  15. Autier P, Boniol M, Hery C, et al. Cancer survival statistics should be viewed with caution. Lancet Oncol 2007; 8:1050-2; author reply 1053-4.
  16. Cancer Research UK science blog. Controversy over European cancer statistics.
  17. Berrino F, De Angelis R, Sant M, et al. Survival for eight major cancers and all cancers combined for European adults diagnosed in 1995-99: results of the EUROCARE-4 study. Lancet Oncol 2007;8:773-83.
  18. Sant M, Allemani C, Santaquilani M, et al. EUROCARE-4. Survival of cancer patients diagnosed in 1995-1999. Results and commentary. Eur J Cancer 2009;45:931-91.
  19. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit. Investigating the low survival for malignant melanoma of skin and cervical cancer in Wales. Cardiff: WCISU; 2011.
  20. Abdel-Rahman M, Stockton D, Rachet B, et al. What if cancer survival in Britain were the same as in Europe: how many deaths are avoidable? Br J Cancer 2009;101:S115-S24
Updated: 22 July 2013