Studies show the number of skin cancer cases in the U.S. are growing at an alarming rate. In fact, over the past three decades, more people have been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer (most of which are nonmelanoma or basal and squamous cell skin cancers) than all other cancers combined. Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, is much less prevalent but is the deadliest type.
- An estimated 106,110 new cases of invasive melanoma (penetrating the dermis or the skin’s 2nd layer) will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021, with 7,180 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis.
- Melanoma accounts for less than 1% of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
- The overall lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2.6% (1 in 38) for Caucasians, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for African Americans, and 0.6% (1 in 167) for Hispanics.
- The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99% in the U.S. The survival rate falls to 66% when the disease reaches surrounding tissue or lymph nodes and 27% when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.
Sources: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2021; the Society’s website; and The Skin Cancer Foundation
Signs and Symptoms
A symptom is a change in the body that a person can see and/or feel. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. If you have any of the symptoms below, it does not mean you have cancer but you should see your doctor or health care professional so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
- A is for Asymmetry:One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- B is for Border:The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Color:The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- D is for Diameter:The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
- E is for Evolving:The mole is changing in size, shape, or color
Other signs of melanoma that don’t fit the ABCDE signs include:
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or appearance of a lump or bump