Incidence of skin cancer on the rise in Scotland

1 Sep 2014

Despite a recent decline in Scotland of skin cancer, the UK’s most common cancer is once more on the rise, according to a study being presented at the World Congress of Cancers of the Skin this week in Edinburgh (September 3rd-6th).

The researchers, from the Alan Lyell Centre for Dermatology in Glasgow, analysed data on skin cancer incidence and survival from the Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland.

The data showed that the incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer has increased 273 per cent (two and half fold) since 1990.

Between 2009 and 2010 there was a one per cent fall in the incidence rate for skin cancer, however this subsequently increased in 2011 above the previous highest recording.

There are three main types of skin cancer.

Melanoma is the least common but most deadly form.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type, and together with basal cell carcinoma – the most common but least dangerous form – is known as non-melanoma skin cancer.

Of the three skin cancer types, the following increases were noted between 1990 and 2011:

  • Basal cell carcinoma cases increased from 2910 in 1990 to 7553 in 2011 , a rise of 160%.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma increased from 892 cases in 1990, rising to 2982 cases in 2011, equating to rise in incidence of 234%.
  • Melanoma cases increased from 495 to 1,202 over the same period - a rise of 143%.

The researchers were also able to report some positive trends, with survival rates soaring over the last 30 years, probably due to better public health messaging on the importance of early detection of skin cancer.

Survival at five years after diagnosis between 1983 and 1987 was 64 per cent for men and 81.9 per cent for women.

This had increased to 85.4 per cent and 91.7 per cent for males and females respectively for the period 2003 to 2007.

Dr Gregory Parkins, one of the authors of the study, said: ““There are several factors which are likely to be contributing to this increase in skin cancer in Scotland, including more affordable holidays to sunny destinations, sunbed usage, and an aging population.

“It will come as no surprise to the people of Scotland that a large proportion of us have pale skin, which makes the risk of developing skin cancer higher. This means that education around skin cancer and sun protection is hugely important.

Matthew Gass of the British Association of Dermatologists said: “The incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer continues to rise at a worrying rate, and although the rise in incidence has been met by an improvement in survival rates, the ultimate goal is to prevent skin cancers occurring in the first place. There is still a long way to go in terms of education around sun awareness and skin cancer. We hope that people recognise that prevention is far better than a cure.”

Source: British Association of Dermatologists