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Noteworthy Numbers

TOP - April 2012, Vol 5, No 2 published on April 30, 2012

Because skin is the largest organ in the body, is it not surprising that skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. So with spring in the air and summer right around the corner, let us dig deeper into the statistics surrounding this fatal disease.

Melanoma accounts for about 4% of all skin cancer cases but 79% of all skin cancer deaths.

It is currently the seventh most common cancer in American women and the sixth most common cancer in American men. Incidence rates have been on the rise for the past 30 years. It is estimated there will be 76,250 new cases of melanoma in the US this year. Melanoma has a wide age distribution. There is an increase in occurrence with age, and rates are highest among those in their 80s. Melanoma is not uncommon among those younger than age 30. In fact, it is the second most common cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 35 and the leading cause of cancer death in women aged 25 to 30.

The primary risk factor for developing melanoma is race, with rates 10 times higher for whites than blacks.

The lifetime risk of a melanoma diagnosis is about 2% (1 in 50) for whites, 0.5% (1 in 200) for Hispanics, and 0.1% (1 in 1000) for blacks. From 2004 to 2008, 68 years of age was the median age at death for patients with melanoma. The disease is expected to cause approximately 9180 deaths during 2012 (6060 men and 3120 women). If melanoma is discovered early enough, the chance of survival is high. Five-year survival rates range from 97% for stage IA down to 15% for stage IV melanoma.

In order to prevent this deadly disease, the American Cancer Society encourages everyone to “Slip! Slop! Slap!...and Wrap!”

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Wrap on sunglasses


Last modified: July 22, 2021