Melanoma is a skin cancer that affects hundreds of thousands of people every year. Once it begins to spread away from the skin and into other parts of the body, it is referred to as metastatic melanoma. Someone diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma will have metastatic melanoma. It is most often caused by UV exposure from tanning beds or sunlight, but may begin because of other forms of cell damage as well. It is not known why unexposed parts of the body, such as the palm of the hand, can be the place where melanoma begins.
Facts About Metastatic Melanoma
1. 76,100. That’s the number of new cases that are expected to be diagnosed in the US in the next 12 months.
2. Metastatic melanoma accounts for 4.6% of all new cancer cases that are diagnosed.
3. The percentage of cancer deaths every year that are attributed to metastatic melanoma: 1.7%.
4. In 2011, there were an estimated 960,231 people living with melanoma.
5. When melanoma can be caught at the localized stage, the 5 year survival rate is 98%. When it has become metastatic melanoma, the 5 year survival rate is just 4%.
6. Melanoma is the 5th most common cancer that is diagnosed in the United States.
7. Melanoma is more common in men than women.
8. The number of new cases of melanoma of the skin was 21.3 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2007-2011 cases.
9. The average age of diagnosis for a new case of melanoma: 62.
10. A woman of Caucasian descent is 20x more likely to be diagnosed with metastatic melanoma compared to African American women.
11. New cases of melanoma have been rising by 1.8% annually for the last decade.
12. The lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2% for Caucasians, 0.1% for African Americans, and 0.5% for Hispanics.
13. Melanoma accounts for less than 2% of all skin cancer cases in the United States, but it causes most of the deaths.
14. If the metastatic melanoma has only spread to the lymph nodes, then the 5 year survival rate is 16%.
15. In 2004, the total direct cost associated with the treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer was $1.5 billion.
16. 82% of those who are initially diagnosed with metastatic melanoma have a distant metastases.
17. The most common form of metastatic melanoma is one that spreads to other skin areas or nodals at 57% of cases. Liver and bone involvement was more common than lung involvement.
18. The 10 year survival rate for any form of metastatic melanoma is less than 10%.
19. Single-agent chemotherapy for metastatic melanoma is well tolerated but is associated with response rates of only 5% to 20%.
20. Bone metastases have the lowest survival rates of any other, at just 4.4 months after diagnosis. Only 3% of patients with such a diagnosis will survive to the 12 month mark.
21. The 5 year survival rate for patients with metastatic melanoma and multiple lesions: 0%.
In most cases, once the cancer reaches this stage, it cannot be cured. There are, however, a number of treatments that are available which will help people live longer. This is why knowing the risk factors and statistics of metastatic melanoma are so important. Having fair skin, several moles, and a history of melanoma within the family will all increase the risks of the cancer forming.
How Is Metastatic Melanoma Treated?
The most common way to treat melanoma is surgery. Removing the cancer from the skin before it spreads will generally cure people who have localized versions of the cancer. When the melanoma has become metastatic, surgery is still a primary care option. The cancer cells that can be removed will be removed. Radiation treatment and chemotherapy may be used to treat the areas of the body where the cancer cells have spread.
There are also immunotherapy medicines which may be used to treat melanoma as well. If you suspect a mole, freckle, or lesion could be problematic, then be seen immediately.
The best way to avoid metastatic melanoma is to take proactive interventions against UV DNA damage. Wear high SPF sunscreen outside, even on cloudy days, to limit exposure. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants whenever possible. Treat sunburns immediately and use spray tan products instead of a tanning bed. In doing so, you may just give yourself a chance to be in the 98% of the population that will not have melanoma at some point in their life.