The importance of early detection of melanoma cannot be overstated. When melanoma is found and treated early, the chances for long-term survival are excellent. Five-year survival rates for patients with early-stage (Stage I) melanoma exceed 90 to 95%. As melanoma progresses, it becomes increasingly more devastating and deadly. In later-stage disease, 5-year survival rates drop to less than 50%.1 The good news is that with early detection, survival rates have improved steadily in recent years, and 85% of diagnosed patients enjoy long-term survival after simple tumor surgery. 2
The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, or color of an existing mole or the appearance of a new mole. Since the vast majority of primary melanomas are visible on the skin, there is a good chance of detecting the disease in its early stages.
You can play a vital role in early detection of melanoma through:
1Balch et al. Final version of the American Joint Committee on Cancer Staging System for Cutaneous Melanoma. J Clin Oncol 2001;19:3635-3648.
2Lotze MT, Dallal RM, Kirkwood JM, Flickinger JC. Cutaneous melanoma. In DeVita VT, Rosenberg SA, Hellman S (eds.), Principles and Practice of Oncology, 6e. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 2001.