Multiple melanomas linked with poorer survival

Men's cancers

New research has found that Queenslanders diagnosed with multiple invasive melanomas have significantly poorer survival than patients with a single invasive melanoma.

The collaborative study* was conducted by Cancer Council Queensland, the University of Queensland and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

The results, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, analysed data from 32,238 melanoma patients from 1995 to 2008, and found the risk of dying within 10 years from melanoma was twice as high for those with two melanomas.

The risk of death was nearly three times higher when three melanomas were diagnosed, compared to people with a single melanoma.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said it was the first study of its kind to examine how multiple melanomas affected survival outcomes, compared to a single diagnosis.

“Our research challenges the current opinion that patients with multiple invasive melanomas have better survival rates compared to patients with a single melanoma,” Ms Clift said.

“Our researchers have applied more sophisticated analysis methods to show that the prospects for survival are significantly poorer for those diagnosed with multiple invasive melanomas, an important finding that must be used to underpin the vigilance of patients and clinicians.

“Our researchers used a population-based cohort to compare melanoma survival in patients with one, two or three invasive tumours over a 10-year follow-up period.

“Due to current high survival rates of melanoma overall, more patients are being diagnosed with multiple invasive melanomas during their lifetime.

“Not only do the most severe melanomas need attention – the number of melanomas diagnosed needs to be considered by clinicians in treatment and follow-up care.

“It’s crucial that adequate records of past disease are kept for melanoma patients – knowledge of a patient’s history should prompt careful surveillance to detect new or recurrent disease.”

Of the 32,238 patients diagnosed between 1995 and 2008, 29,908 (93 per cent) had a single invasive melanoma, six per cent had two, and one per cent had three.

Crude 10 year melanoma survival for the three groups was 89 per cent (for those with one melanoma), 83 per cent (two melanomas) and 67 per cent respectively (three melanomas).

“Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world – it’s vital for everyone to get to know their skin and help detect all skin cancers early,” Ms Clift said.

“If you notice a new spot or lesion, or an existing spot or lesion change in shape, colour or size, visit your GP immediately.”

Queensland has a melanoma incidence rate of 71 cases per 100,000 people, vastly exceeding rates in all other jurisdictions nationally and internationally.

More than 3600 Queenslanders are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and it is estimated that over 350,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are treated.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via 13 11 20 or


For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift,
Executive Manager,
Media and Spokesperson,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5372
Mobile: 0409 001 171