A joint report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Cancer Australia has revealed that though non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is by far the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, just how common it is remains unclear.
According to the report, in 2008 as many as 434,000 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with one or more non-melanoma skin cancers.
Professor David Roder, Head of Research and Information Science at the Cancer Council South Australia, says data from 2006 shows that there were over 400 deaths in that year from NMSC, but unlike other cancers, reporting incidents of NMSC to cancer registries is not mandatory by law.
As a result says Professor Roder incidence and prevalence statistics are not routinely available.
The AIHW report says figures on NMSC rely on data available from GPs and hospitals which extrapolate the impact these cancers have on doctors’ workloads, hospital inpatient admissions and mortality.
Melissa Goodwin of the AIHW’s Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit says it was found that there were an estimated 950,000 GP visits per year, between April 2005 and March 2007, for NMSC and men were twice as likely to seek a doctors advice for NMSC than women.
Hospital stays for NMSC more than doubled between 1993-94 and 2006-07, from 35,833 to 79,792 and once again the rates for males were almost 75% higher than for females.
In line with many other cancers, non-melanoma skin cancer mortality rates were significantly higher in outer regional areas and significantly lower in the most socio-economically advantaged areas.
There was some good news however as the report also showed that while incidence rates, general practitioner visits, and hospital inpatient rates all increased over time, there was no corresponding increase in mortality rates.
Dr. Joanne Ramadge from Cancer Australia says that is proof sun-smart messages are working and more people are keeping a check on their skin.
Dr. Ramadge says there is plenty of available information about non-melanoma skin cancers and melanoma skin cancers, and one of the biggest risk factors is exposure to the sun.