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Melanoma


What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in skin cells called melanocytes. Usually melanomas will occur on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. However, rare melanomas can start inside the eye or in a part of the skin that has never been exposed to the sun, such as mucous membrane (e.g. sinuses, digestive tract, genitals), soles of the feet, palms of the hand or under nails. Although it is one of the less common types of skin cancer, melanoma is considered the most serious because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, especially if not detected early.

You can access further information about melanoma, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is melanoma?

In 2020, 2581 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma. Of these, there were 1492 males and 1089 females, representing 57.8% and 42.2% of the total Victorian melanoma diagnoses, respectively. Currently, melanoma is diagnosed at a rate of 26.2 per 100,000 males and 19.5 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of melanoma is 64 years in males and 59 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 7.4% of all cancers diagnosed and 2.4% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020, melanoma was the 5th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 15th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.


Figure 1: Distribution of melanoma incidence in 2020, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Figure 2: Distribution of melanoma incidence in 2020, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2020, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Melanoma morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused melanoma among all cases. Most melanomas, 59.3%, present as Superficial cell tumours.


Figure 4: Distribution of melanoma morphologies between 2011-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Geographical variance in melanoma by local government area

Figure 5 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of melanoma, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of melanoma.


Figure 5: Variation in the incidence of melanoma for the period 2016-2020, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Melanoma in people born overseas

Figure 6 shows the age-standardised incidence rates of melanoma in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2016 to 2020. The highest age standardised incidence rate for melanoma was 24.1 for males born in the Australia and New Zealand region and the lowest rate of 0.4 was observed in males born in the North-East Asia region. The highest age standardised incidence rate for melanoma was 17.7 for females born in the Australia and New Zealand region and the lowest rate of 0.5 was observed in females born in the South-East Asia region.


Figure 6: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for melanoma in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2016-2020, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)



Melanoma distribution by stage at diagnosis

Figure 7 shows distribution of melanoma by stage of disease at diagnosis in 2020. In males, Stage 1 accounted for the largest proportion (68.2%) of new diagnoses and Stage unknown accounted for the lowest proportion (1.7%) of new melanoma diagnoses. In females, Stage 1 accounted for the largest proportion (74.5%) of new diagnoses and Stage 4 accounted for the lowest proportion (2.1%) of new melanoma diagnoses.


Figure 7: Melanoma distribution by stage at diagnosis in 2020, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Melanoma five-year relative survival

Figure 8 shows the change in 5-year survival for melanoma, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for melanoma between 1985-1989 and 2015-2019 from 85% to 93%.

Figure 8: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of melanoma in five year brackets, from the period 1985-1989 to 2015-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

For further information relating to stage at diagnosis for melanoma, please refer to:
https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/melanoma/diagnosing_melanoma.html

This webpage was last updated in May 2022