March 08, 2017
3 min read

Melanoma deaths expected to fall dramatically by 2050

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The number of malignant melanoma–related deaths in the United States in 2050 could be three times lower than peak levels, according to data presented at the European Cancer Congress.

However, the number of melanoma-related deaths may continue to increase until approximately 2030 due to the aging population.

Individuals born between 1900 and 1960 — when the dangers of radiation from sunlight were unknown — are at the highest risk for melanoma mortality.

Peter Naredi, MD
Peter Naredi

“It was common for babies and school children to be treated with commercial UV radiation–emitting devices and exposed, unclothed, to the midday sun,” Philippe Autier, MD, of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, said in a press release. “This fashion faded in the 1960s as effective treatments — such as vaccines and antibiotics — became available and people became aware that sun exposure and sunburn during childhood were strong risk factors for developing skin cancer later in life.”

Autier and colleagues aimed to determine if morality rates were more impacted by age, birth year or recent introduction of treatments.

Researchers collected melanoma mortality data from a WHO mortality database to create two age-period-cohort models. They also used log-linear models to account for projected increases in population and aging to estimate the number of melanoma deaths between 2014 and 2050 in the United States, Australia and Sweden.

One age-period-cohort model assumed there would be no effective therapies, and the second model assumed a treatment was available and would lead to a 25% reduction in melanoma mortality from 2015 onward, given all patients had access to treatment.

Peak age-adjusted melanoma mortality in the United States occurred around 2005 for men and 1995 for women. Corresponding years were 2015 for men and 1990 for women in Australia, and around 2010 for men and women in Sweden.

Autier and colleagues projected that, by 2050, mortality rates in the United States will be 2.5 to 3 times lower than peak rates prior to 1960. The age-standardized mortality rate — or death rate adjusted according to ages of the populations — is projected to fall from 4 to 1.6 per 100,000 men, and from 1.7 to less than 1 per 100,00 women.

Researchers projected mortality rates would be two times lower in Australia and 1.5 times lower in Sweden by 2050 than in peak years.

The age-standardized mortality rate is expected to decline from 9 to 4 per 100,000 men and from 3.5 to 1.7 per 100,00 women in Australia, and from 5 to 3 per 100,000 men and from 2.7 to 2.1 per 100,000 women in Sweden.

However, in the absence of effective therapies, researchers determined melanoma-related deaths will continue to increase until 2030 or 2035 due to population growth and aging.

For instance, the number of Australian men expected to die of melanoma would increase from 1,007 in 2010 to 1,354 in 2030, then decrease to 1,124 in 2050. The number of women expected to die of melanoma is projected to increase from 410 in 2010 to 570 in 2030, followed by a decline to 544 in 2050.

“With an effective therapy, we would expect to see decreases in the number of melanoma deaths around 2030,” Autier said. “In 2050 ... in the United States [the number of melanoma deaths] would be equal to those of around 1990 for men, with 3,646 deaths, and to 1980 for women, with 1,876 deaths.”

Over time, melanoma deaths will become less common among people aged younger than 50 years. By 2050, nearly all melanoma deaths will occur in people aged older than 70 years, Autier and colleagues concluded.

“Malignant melanoma is one of our most common cancers, and we have tried different ways to increase awareness about protection and early diagnosis,” Peter Naredi, MD, chairman of the department of surgery at Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg and president of the European CanCer Organisation, said in a press release.


“If the predictions are right, protection from sun exposure is one of the best examples of primary prevention,” said Naredi, who was not involved in the research. “This study proves all efforts to protect a population from unhealthy amounts of sun exposure are worthwhile.” – by Melinda Stevens


Autier P, et al. Abstract 1144. Presented at: European Cancer Congress; Jan. 27-30, 2017; Amsterdam.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.