The overall survival of people with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, has improved over the past 25 years or so, German researchers report.
They note in their report in the medical journal Cancer that melanoma is quite curable if it's caught early; however, the improvement in survival they have observed may not be entirely due to early diagnosis.
Dr. Claus Garbe and colleagues from Eberhard-Karis-University in Tuebingen analyzed the survival of 4,791 patients found to have invasive melanoma in southern Germany between 1976 and 2001, in order to assess factors associated with better survival rates.
The proportion of patients who survived for 10 years, overall, was 88.6 percent among patients whose cancer was diagnosed between 1990 and 2001, significantly better than the 80.0 percent of those who learned of their illness between 1976 and 1989.
One factor that affects the deadliness of the tumor is its thickness. The researchers found that the average tumor thickness decreased from 1.07 millimeters in the period 1976-1989 to 0.75 millimeters in 1990-2001.
The investigators' analysis showed that tumor thickness, ulceration, age, gender, anatomical site, and period of primary diagnosis independently predicted overall survival.