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Q:  What are my chances of getting melanoma a second time?  I had melanoma 9 years ago…what are the chances of it returning again?  Do your chances get higher once you’ve had it?

-Seattle, WA

A:  You have two separate risks.

First, there is the risk that your first melanoma, this one that you had 9 years ago, recurs.  Its risk of coming back depends on the stage of the initial tumor and whether it had appropriate treatment.  The good news though is that the risk of it coming back steadily falls with passing time and 9 years out is very low.

However, you have a second risk.  We know that people who have had one melanoma are at higher risk of developing a second one, one that is completely new (in other words, not the first one coming back, but a completely new one growing from scratch).  This risk is about 3% at 5 years and about 4% at 10 years, so your risk here does rise just a little bit as time goes on.

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