Dr. Geoffrey Lim: You’ve mentioned that the importance of staging is to help us predict whether the melanoma will come back. You’ve outlined that thickness (or depth) and ulceration of the tumor are the two main features of the primary melanoma that define the stage and substage. How does one’s risk associated with each Stage II subgroup vary depending on these features?

Dr. Jason Luke: The numbers vary a little bit, but it’s approximately the case that for Stage IIA melanoma, the risk of recurrence there is about 14% over five years (Graphic). But when we get to Stage IIB and Stage IIC, we get to higher levels. So, this five-year risk of recurrence is 28% for Stage IIB. And for Stage IIC, the risk of recurrence would be as high as 45%. And these numbers show you that in approximately a third to almost half of cases, the melanoma will spread to somewhere else in the body just because the primary melanoma has grown very deep in the skin.

Graphic. The risk of melanoma coming back 5 years after melanoma diagnosis for each Stage II substage. To learn more about these data click here.

Approximately a third of Stage IIB patients and almost half of Stage IIC patients will have the melanoma come back somewhere else in the body, because the original melanoma was very deep.

—Jason Luke, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center