Incidence of Skin Cancer on the Rise in Scotland Once More

However, survival rates are on the increase as well

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 that was presented at the 2014 World Congress of Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh.

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 rose from 2910 cases across all age groups in 1990, to 7553 cases in 2011, equal to a rise in incidence of 260%.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma rose from 892 cases in 1990, to 2982 cases in 2011, equating to rise in incidence of 334%.  
  • Cutaneous melanoma increased from 495 cases in 1990 to 1202 cases in 2011, a rise of 236%.

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.”

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact: Matt Gass, Communications Officer, on 020 7391 6084 or at matthew.gass@bad.org.uk

If using this study, please ensure you mention that the study was released at the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin. 

The conference will be held in Edinburgh from September 3rd to 6th 2014, and is attended by approximately 1,000 UK and worldwide health professionals.

The World Congress on Cancers of the Skin 2014 was founded by The Skin Cancer Foundation, the international organization devoted solely to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of the world’s most common cancer. It is organised by the British Association of Dermatologists.

Study details:

Incidence of Skin cancer within the Scottish Population, Gregory Parkins, Allan Matthews, Grant Wylie; Alan Lyell Centre for Dermatology, Glasgow, UK

Skin type, ultra violet radiation and genetics all play a role in the development of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. With a large number of the population in Scotland having Fitzpatricks type I &II skin, the risk of developing skin cancer is higher. Our aim was to assess the general trends in skin cancer incidence within Scotland. We sourced data on melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers from the Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland which had figures for skin cancer incidence and survival. We specifically looked at trends in the incidence of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer has increased. The number of cases of basal cell carcinoma rose from 2910 cases across all age groups in 1990, to 7553 cases in 2011, equal to a rise in incidence of 260%. A similar picture was seen with squamous cell carcinoma with 892 cases in 1990, rising to 2982 cases in 2011, equating to rise in incidence of 334%. The number of cases of cutaneous melanoma increased from 495 cases in 1990 to 1202 cases in 2011, a rise of 236%. It was noted between 2009 and 2010 the rates of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer fell by 1%, but subsequently increased in 2011 to above the previous highest recording. The relative survival at five years after diagnosis between 1983 and 1987 was 64% and 81.9% for males and females respectively. This had increased to 85.4% and 91.7% for males and females respectively for the period 2003-2007. Incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer has risen exponentially. Increasing age and exposure to UV radiation through holidays abroad and sun beds play a role in the trends seen. The levelling off incidence in recent years may reflect a plateau in skin cancer rates. It is encouraging however, that the rise in incidence has been met with improvement in survival from melanoma, especially amongst males who have shown an absolute increase in survival of 21% over 20 years. Given the management of melanoma has not really changed in this time, the improved survival may be a result of public health messages specifically on sun protection and the importance of early detection of skin cancer.

Reference: ISD Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland, Cancer Statistics, Skin Cancer. 

About the BAD 

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) is the central association of practising UK dermatologists. Our aim is to continually improve the treatment and understanding of skin disease. The BAD provides free patient information on skin diseases and runs a number of high profile campaigns, including Sun Awareness, which runs from May to September annually and includes national Sun Awareness Week in May. Website: www.bad.org.uk/sunawareness

Published on September 2, 2014