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Skin cancers common, but melanoma rates falling for young people

19 July, 2016

Skin cancers overall account for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year and Australia has the world's second highest melanoma incidence rates, according to a report released 13 July 2016 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Skin cancer in Australia, presents the latest information on skin cancers—a disease group including melanoma of the skin and non-melanoma skin cancer-in Australia.

The report estimates that almost 13,300 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in Australia in 2016, with about 1,800 people dying from the disease.

'Since 1982, the rate of melanoma in the population has almost doubled-up from 27 to 49 cases per 100,000 people,' said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

'The good news is that for people aged under 40 the rate has dropped, from 13 cases per 100,000 people in 2002, to about 9 in 2016.'

Long-running public education campaigns on the effects of sun exposure may be related to this decrease.

The report also shows that survival from melanoma is relatively high, with people diagnosed in 2007–2011 having a 90% chance of surviving at least five years. This is much higher than the five-year survival rate for all cancers combined (67%).

The total number of new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer is unknown. However, non-melanoma skin cancer is estimated to account for more cases diagnosed than all other cancers combined.

'In 2016, an estimated 560 people will die from non-melanoma skin cancer, with a death rate of 1.9 deaths per 100,000 people,' Harvey said.

Hospitalisations for all types of skin cancer are also common, and have increased significantly over the last decade.

In 2013–14, there were over 23,400 melanoma-related hospitalisations in Australia, a 63% rise from the 14,350 recorded in 2002–03. Over the same period, non-melanoma skin cancer -related hospitalisations rose by 39%, from about 82,400 in 2002–03, to around 114,700 in 2013–14.

In 2014, almost $137 million in Medicare benefits were paid for melanoma-related services ($9.4 million) and non-melanoma skin cancers ($127.5 million). Excluding cancer screening expenses, non-melanoma skin cancer accounted for over 8% of health spending on all cancers in Australia in 2008–09.

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