Melanoma is defined as a cancer of the skin where skin cells or melanocytes, which usually function in an orderly and controlled manner, undergo a change in their DNA and start growing out of control. They form a mass of cells which leads to cancer of the skin or melanoma.


Melanoma is a common form of cancer, being the most common form of cancer in the United States of America among men and women alike. Melanoma is usually not a fatal disease unless it escalates and penetrates to other parts of the body.


Statistics reveal that melanoma is generally seen more often in women than in men, especially in the age group of people in their 50s. However, as the age of the group increases, the number of male patients is found to be higher than female patients. In fact, by the age of 65 the number of men likely to be suffering from melanoma is two times more and in the age group of people above 80 years of age men are three times more likely to be suffering from melanoma than women.


Is Melanoma Fatal?

Fortunately, in the majority of cases, if detected early, melanoma is not fatal and can be treated and cured completely. The diagnosis is also easier to make once the symptoms are visible and thus early diagnosis can help provide early treatment. However, if not detected in time, melanoma advances and can spread to other parts of the body, where it can be difficult to treat, and in such situations it can be fatal.


Survival Rates of Melanoma

The survival rate for any disease gives an idea as to the percentage or number of people who are suffering from the same disease and are at the same stage and are likely to survive it within a given frame of time. When the survival rate is calculated over a period of time, it is termed as a relative survival rate.

So, in the case of a specific case of melanoma, for example, the relative survival rate for 5 years is 90 percent, which means that at that stage of the disease people who have that particular melanoma have a 90 percent chance of surviving as compared to those who do not have the disease (once the cancer has been detected).

Thus for melanoma, the survival rate varies according to the stage of the disease, such as localized (where the cancer is only present in the place it was found and has not spread), regional (the cancer has spread from the skin, where it was found, to nearby lymph nodes or structures), and distant (where the cancer has spread to distant organs of the body, such as liver, lungs, or skin that is distant from the place of origin).


Thus, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma at a:

  • Localized stage of melanoma is 98 percent
  • Regional stage of melanoma is 64 percent
  • Distant stage of melanoma is 23 percent

However, these numbers are over a period of time and advances in treatment options can improve the survival rate at all stages.