Epidemiology of Melanoma

Med Sci (Basel). 2021 Oct 20;9(4):63. doi: 10.3390/medsci9040063.


Melanoma accounts for 1.7% of global cancer diagnoses and is the fifth most common cancer in the US. Melanoma incidence is rising in developed, predominantly fair-skinned countries, growing over 320% in the US since 1975. However, US mortality has fallen almost 30% over the past decade with the approval of 10 new targeted or immunotherapy agents since 2011. Mutations in the signaling-protein BRAF, present in half of cases, are targeted with oral BRAF/MEK inhibitor combinations, while checkpoint inhibitors are used to restore immunosurveillance likely inactivated by UV radiation. Although the overall 5-year survival has risen to 93.3% in the US, survival for stage IV disease remains only 29.8%. Melanoma is most common in white, older men, with an average age of diagnosis of 65. Outdoor UV exposure without protection is the main risk factor, although indoor tanning beds, immunosuppression, family history and rare congenital diseases, moles, and obesity contribute to the disease. Primary prevention initiatives in Australia implemented since 1988, such as education on sun-protection, have increased sun-screen usage and curbed melanoma incidence, which peaked in Australia in 2005. In the US, melanoma incidence is not projected to peak until 2022-2026. Fewer than 40% of Americans report practicing adequate protection (sun avoidance from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and regular application of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF > 30). A 2-4-fold return on investment is predicted for a US sun-protection education initiative. Lesion-directed skin screening programs, especially for those at risk, have also cost-efficiently reduced melanoma mortality.

Keywords: epidemiology; incidence; melanoma; mortality; prevention; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acrylonitrile / analogs & derivatives
  • Acrylonitrile / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Aniline Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Incidence
  • Melanoma / drug therapy
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Monitoring, Immunologic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / therapeutic use
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Aniline Compounds
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • MEK inhibitor I
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Acrylonitrile