Skin cancer is on the rise around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. This number is only expected to increase as the ozone layer continues to be depleted. The WHO estimates that a 10 percent decrease in ozone levels will result in an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4,500 melanoma skin cancer cases.
The good news is that skin cancer, and particularly melanoma, the incidence is linked to factors within every individual’s control. If preventative measures, like staying out of the sun and wearing protection, are taken, many cases of melanoma can be prevented. But before we get to how we can protect ourselves, let’s take a look at the melanoma situation in several regions around the world.
Melanoma facts: Europe & UK
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, malignant melanoma incidence is at about 47,241 new people a year (data from 2012) across Europe, which is on the rise overall. The most afflicted countries are Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
Studies report, however, that while incidence and mortality of skin cancer are considered high in Europe there are significant gaps in the epidemiological information available across the continent.
In the UK, melanoma skin cancer incidence has been on the rise since the 1970s and there are 15,419 new cases of melanoma skin cancer reported each year.
Melanoma facts: US
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
Some melanoma facts: In 2013, 71,943 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin, including 42,430 men and 29,513 women. These rates have increased significantly from 2003, by approximately 1.4% per year among women and 1.7% per year among men.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016 approximately 76,380 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 46,870 in men and 29,510 in women).
New Zealand melanoma incidence
The research reported by Melanoma New Zealand states that over 4,000 people per year in New Zealand are diagnosed with melanoma and it is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand. Some reports state that New Zealand now has the highest per capita rates of invasive melanoma in the world, moving ahead of Australia.
Further research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that New Zealand has 50 cases of melanoma per 100,000 people, compared with Australia’s 48.
Many researchers believe this is in large part due to less education and awareness around the issue in New Zealand as compared to Australia.
Cancer Australia, reports that in 2012, 12,036 new cases of melanoma skin cancer were diagnosed in Australia (7,060 males and 4,976 females). They go on to say that in 2016 it is estimated that 13,283 new cases of melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed (7,847 males and 5,436 females).
In 2016 so far, melanoma has made up about 3.8% of all deaths from cancer in Australia. The country still has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, right alongside New Zealand, due to the high levels of sunshine, a large proportion of fair-skinned people and lower ozone levels above the region.
Australia has been successful in public health campaigns encouraging people to stay safe in the sun, but much work still needs to be done.
Melanoma Causes and Prevention
The biggest cause of skin cancer is UV rays from the sun. The ozone layer helps protect us from many of the sun’s harmful rays, but many UVA and UVB rays still get through.
That’s why it’s essential we take the proper precautions, namely sunscreen, protective clothing and an awareness of the UV Index in our region. It’s also vital to check our body for suspicious spots and moles often, because, when caught early, melanoma can usually be cured but once it has spread it is a particularly deadly disease. Knowing the warning signs of melanoma so that you can catch it early is key.
Learn more about the symptoms you need to watch out for and don’t forget to contact your doctor or dermatologist at the first sign of worry.