Melanoma

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Survival statistics for melanoma skin cancer

Survival statistics for melanoma skin cancer are general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for melanoma skin cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for melanoma skin cancer is 88%. This means that, on average, about 88% of people diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of melanoma skin cancer.

Generally, the earlier melanoma skin cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

Most melanoma skin cancers are found at an early stage.

Superficial spreading melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of melanoma. It tends to be a thin tumour that stays on the surface of the skin and is often easy to treat.

Melanoma skin cancer often responds well to cancer treatment.

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of melanoma skin cancer. The following information is based on the 2008 American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Melanoma Staging Database. It includes observed survival statistics from other countries that are likely to have similar outcomes as in Canada. Observed survival is the percentage of people with a particular cancer who are alive at a certain point in time after their diagnosis. Observed survival does not consider the cause of death, so the people who are not alive 5 years after their diagnosis could have died from cancer or from another cause.

Melanoma skin cancer survival
Stage5-year observed survival

stage 1A

97%

stage 1B

92%

stage 2A

81%

stage 2B

70%

stage 2C

53%

stage 3A

78%*

stage 3B

59%

stage 3C

40%

stage 3D

no information available

stage 4

15% to 20%

*The reason stage 3A melanoma skin cancer has a better survival than some stage 2 cancers is unclear.

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • where the cancer started on the skin
  • the stage, including how thick the cancer is and if there is broken skin with an open wound (ulceration)
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

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