What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is referred to as a serious form of skin cancer(1). This malignant disease develops in the cells responsible for producing melanin. Melanin is a pigment which gives the skin its color(2). The more the melanin count, the darker will be the skin(3). In some cases, melanoma is also noted to develop in the eyes; and in extremely rare cases, internal organs like the intestines also get affected by melanoma. The primary cause of Melanoma is still not clear, but ultraviolet rays, especially from direct exposure to sunlight are a prominent risk factor(4, 5, 6).
Studies suggest that the cases of melanoma have been on the incline, especially in females under the age of 45(4). If an individual knows the early signs of melanoma, then detection becomes that much easier. Early and prompt treatment can definitively cure melanoma(5). The most prominent areas where melanoma can develop are the arms, legs, face, and back as these areas are most vulnerable to sunlight exposure(6).
At times, melanomas also develop under the soles of the feet or palms of the hands even though they are not the body parts that get overexposed to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation. Melanomas developing in this region are more seen in African-American population even though it is not common for them to have melanoma in other specified areas of the body.
Some of the early warning signs of melanoma include a mole that changes in its characteristics or an abnormal growth on the skin surface(7). An individual with a known diagnosis of melanoma is always worried of the long term outlook for this condition. This article discusses about the approximate survival rate of people with melanoma.
What is the Survival Rate for Melanoma?
The survival rate of people for a specific illness gives an approximate value in number of years that an individual can survive after the diagnosis. The survival rate is calculated on the basis of 5 year and 10 year survival. This means that how much percentage of people with a certain stage of the disease will make it through after five years of diagnosis and what percentage of people after 10 years of diagnosis. The survival rate does not in any way tell an individual the number of years he or she may have to live, but gives an approximate value of the success rate of treatment post diagnosis.
The survival rate for a particular disease is purely the choice of the patient and is not mandatory to be discussed at all. In cases of Melanoma, there have been various studies conducted with regard to the survival rate based on the stages of this cancer. The study also includes people who may have been diagnosed with melanoma, but may have succumbed to some other cause like a cardiac illness and thus the value of people surviving melanoma may be much higher than the numbers mentioned below.
The five year survival rate for an individual with a diagnosis of Melanoma Stage IA is around 98% with a 10 year survival rate going down just a bit at around 94%. Similarly, the fiver year survival rate for individuals with Melanoma Stage IB is around 90% with 10 year survival rate being approximately 85%.
For stage II-A patients, the 5 year survival rate is around 80%, but the 10 year survival rate goes down drastically to around 65%. The survival rate for stage II-B melanoma is approximately 70% and the 10 year survival rate is around 55%. For stage II-C melanoma, the 5 year survival rate is around 50% and 10 year survival rate is approximately 40%.
For stage III melanoma the maximum 5 year survival rate is around 75% and 10 year survival rate is approximately 60% for stage A melanoma, which goes down to 40% and 20% respectively for stage III-C melanoma. The fourth stage of melanoma is far more serious with approximate 5 year survival rate being around 20% and 10 year survival rate approximately 10%.
The survival rate in stage IV melanoma depends on the extent of the spread of the cancer. It is much better if the melanoma spread is localized to only the areas adjacent to the primary tumor; however, if the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, the survival rate is much lower.
There are also certain other factors that influence the survival rate of people with melanoma. It has been generally observed that the elderly population or people with any other underlying illness tend to have lower survival rate than others irrespective of the stage of the cancer(8).
Survival rate for African-Americans with melanoma, even though it is quite rare in this group, is much lower than average(10). Additionally, people with a compromised immune system, such as those who are suffering from HIV or have had an organ transplant recently also tend to have a lower survival rate than normal population(9).