last updated April 2013
Reassuring patients with thin melanomas
A population-wide study of patients with thin melanomas shows 20-year survival rates of 96%
Most patients diagnosed with melanoma have thin tumors, which are less than 1 mm thick and have only invaded the uppermost skin layer. Although such early diagnoses are common, long-term survival rates for these patients are not well-known. A study led by Adèle Green of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia, used data from the entire state of Queensland to establish that the 20-year melanoma-specific survival rate is a reassuring 96%1.
Green and colleagues tracked long-term survival of over 26,000 patients using data gathered by the Queensland Cancer Registry, which has recorded statewide cancer cases since 1982. The researchers also studied risk factors to determine which patients might benefit from more aggressive treatment. Tumor thickness had the strongest impact on long-term survival, with tumors thicker than 0.75 mm carrying a fourfold higher risk than tumors thinner than 0.25 mm. Greater risk is also faced by men, patients over 65, and patients with nodular tumors, or tumors on the palms or soles, or on the scalp or neck.
“These results provide a very sound basis for clinicians to reassure patients who have thin melanomas that their risk of dying is small,” says Green, whose group is now investigating why women’s survival rate is higher than men’s.