What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It begins in cells in the skin called melanocytes (cells that produce pigment and cause your skin to tan). It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

Some key facts and figures about this widespread, potentially deadly disease

  • If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. While it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths.
  • An estimated 76,380 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016, resulting in an estimated 10,130 deaths.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
  • Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with 5 MILLION PEOPLE treated each year.
  • Treatment for skin cancer costs $8.1 BILLION each year in the United States.
  • Anyone can get skin cancer. Although those with lighter skin are at higher risk of getting skin cancer, people with darker skin may often be diagnosed with skin cancer at a later stage, making it difficult to treat.
  • Most skin cancers can be prevented—but we aren’t doing enough.
  • More than 1 out of every 3 Americans reports getting sunburned each year. Sunburn is a clear sign of overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays, a major cause of skin cancer.
  • More than 400,000 cases of skin cancer, about 6,000 of which are melanomas, are estimated to be related to indoor tanning in the U.S. each year.
  • Tanned skin is damaged skin, yet nearly 1 out of every 3 young white women engages in indoor tanning each year.
  • Choose sun protection strategies that work:
  1. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and other protective clothing, seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  2. Use broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30-50 to protect any exposed skin. Remember that sunscreen is most effective when used in combination with other methods, and when reapplied as directed.
  3. Learn to “Apply Cover Enjoy”

People from every sector of society have a role to play to reverse the rising tide of skin cancer. Government, business, health, education, community, nonprofit, and faith-based sectors are all essential partners in this effort.

(Source: U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, 2014.)