What are the survival rates for melanoma?

Updated: Jun 28, 2021
  • Author: Jonathan B Heistein, MD; Chief Editor: Gregory Gary Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS  more...
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Answer

Answer

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed.

Relative survival rates take into consideration the fact that people may die of other causes besides melanoma. With relative rates, anyone who died of another cause, such as heart disease, is not counted. This is considered to be a more accurate way to describe the prognosis for people with particular types and stages of cancer. Of course, 5-year survival rates are based on patients diagnosed and initially treated more than 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment often result in a more favorable outlook for recently diagnosed patients.

  • Stage 0: The 5-year relative survival rate is 97%.

  • Stage I: The 5-year survival rate is 90-95%. If a sentinel node biopsy yields findings of melanoma in the lymph nodes, the 5-year survival is approximately 75%.

  • Stage IIA: The 5-year relative survival rate is approximately 85%. If a sentinel node biopsy yields findings of melanoma in the lymph nodes, the 5-year survival is approximately 65%.

  • Stage IIB: The 5-year relative survival rate is approximately 72-75%. If a sentinel node biopsy yields findings of melanoma in the lymph nodes, the 5-year survival is 50-60%.

  • Stage IIC: The 5-year relative survival rate is approximately 53%. If a sentinel node biopsy yields findings of melanoma in the lymph nodes, the 5-year survival is approximately 44%.

  • Stage III: The 5-year survival rate is approximately 45%. It is higher if the melanoma has spread to only one node and is lower if it has spread to more than 3. It is higher if the spread can only be seen under the microscope. It is lower if the melanoma was ulcerated.

  • Stage IV: The 5-year survival rate for stage IV melanoma is approximately 10%. It is higher if the spread was to skin or distant lymph nodes.

In a study from Alabama, patients with 1, 2-4, or more than 4 positive node(s) had survival rates of 58%, 27%, and 10%, respectively. Patients with spread to the lymph nodes have an 85% chance of developing occult disease. The worst outcome is predicted for patients with distant metastasis (stage IV). With a single metastatic site, the 1-year survival rate is 36%, but this drops to 13% with 2 sites. Patients with 3 or more sites of metastatic disease essentially have a 0% survival rate in the first year. These rates all vary somewhat according to the prognostic characteristics (see Prognosis).

A retrospective study by Tellez et al suggested that cutaneous melanoma is more dangerous when found in women who are pregnant or have given birth within the past year. The study found that 12.5% of women diagnosed during or within a year after pregnancy had posttreatment cancer recurrence and that 25% had metastasis, versus 1.4% and 12.7%, respectively, of other women in the report. (Follow-up was typically at least 7 years.) However, the investigators cautioned that because the medical center where the study was conducted tended to see more complex cases, the study results might not be universally illustrative. [32, 33]  Nonetheless, a literature review by Kyrgidis et al indicated that mortality in women with pregnancy-associated melanoma is 17% greater than in females with melanoma that is unrelated to pregnancy. [34]


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