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Incidence of melanoma


Malignant melanoma is a relatively uncommon cancer in the UK where it comprises only 1% of cancers and only 1200 deaths per year; however, there are some data to suggest that the incidence is rising. By contrast, the incidence in Queensland, Australia, where a Caucasian population are heavily exposed to sunlight, is 5 per 1,000 of the population indicating the breadth of incidence of this highly fatal cancer across the globe. Whilst the incidence of melanoma is highest in Australia, there is good evidence that the incidence in Europe and America is rising. In the European population, the increase in incidence has been linked to a greater opportunity for foreign travel and sunbathing holidays. This increased chance of taking holidays in the sun may in part explain why there is a higher incidence of the disease in higher social classes In America, the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) study showed a steady increase in incidence of cutaneous melanoma at various latitudes, again reinforcing the sunshine exposure risk factor. The disease is more common in women by a factor of approximately twofold - in Europe and America (but not in Australia). Also, there is a tendency for melanoma to occur on the trunk in men and extremities in women; facial melanoma tends to be a disease of the elderly. Mucosal melanoma is relatively more common in dark skinned races, in whom the incidence of skin melanoma is less frequent.

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