Noteworthy Numbers: Melanoma

TON May 2016 Vol 9 No 3 - Noteworthy Numbers

The most common type of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. Although data are reported on melanoma, the incidence rates of the most common skin cancers—basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas—are not included in cancer registries.1 In recognition of May as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, and May 27 as the American Cancer Society’s Don’t Fry Day, here are some details about a few types of skin cancer.

  • Basal-cell and squamous-cell cancers are also known as keratinocyte carcinoma, or nonmelanoma skin cancer. Many patients develop >1 nonmelanoma skin cancers. For 2012, it was estimated that 3.3 million patients were diagnosed with 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancers.1
  • Although melanoma represents only approximately 1% of skin cancers, it is the cause of a large majority of skin cancer deaths. Estimates for 2016 indicate that approximately 76,380 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed—46,870 in men, and 29,510 in women—and that melanoma will cause approximately 10,130 deaths: 6750 in men, and 3380 in women.2 It is also estimated that nonepithelial skin cancers will cause 3520 deaths.1
  • Merkel-cell carcinoma, a nonepithelial skin cancer, is rare; only 1500 cases of this condition are now reported annually in the United States. Although Merkel-cell carcinoma is 30 times more rare than melanoma, it is twice as deadly, with a mortality rate of approximately 1 in 3 patients compared with 1 in 6 for melanoma.3
  • Melanoma is most often diagnosed in non-Hispanic white patients, for whom the annual incidence rate per 100,000 is 25 compared with 4 for Hispanics, and 1 for black people. Until age 50 years, women have higher rates, but by age 65 years, the rate for men is twice that for women. Since 1996, the incidence of melanoma has increased by 2.6% per year in adults aged ≥50 years. From 2008 to 2012, however, rates declined by about 3% per year in men and women aged 20 to 29 years.1
  • Earlier this year, the American Academy of Dermatology awarded grants to build 19 shade structures in 15 states.4 The goal is to “protect children and adolescents from the sun’s harmful rays.” The program began in 2000, and has since provided 324 shade structure grants. Each day, the structures provide shade for more than 600,000 people.


1. American Cancer Society. Cancer facts & figures 2016. Published 2016. Accessed April 18, 2016.
2. American Cancer Society. What are the key statistics about melanoma skin cancer?­statistics. Updated February 1, 2016. Accessed April 18, 2016.
3. Iyer J, Nghiem P. Merkel cell carcinoma: an uncommon but often lethal cancer. Published June 1, 2009. ­Accessed April 18, 2016.
4. American Academy of Dermatology awards 19 Shade Structure grants to protect America’s youth [news release]. Schamburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology; February 25, 2016. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Last modified: May 24, 2016