Alberta Cancer Foundation

Getting the Message

After a rapid spike in the late 1980s and early ’90s, research from the University of Alberta shows the incidence of skin cancer has levelled out.

“It’s amazing to see that we’re going against thought, which was that [skin cancer] was going to continue to escalate,” says researcher Gordon Jung.

Jung, along with Andrei Metelitsa, led a research team that found skin cancer rates have dropped in men and levelled out for women. The team looked at data from almost 100,000 patients over a 20-year period. The patients were diagnosed with two of the most common skin cancers – basal cell carcinomas and squamos cell carcinomas. These cancers need to be removed in a process that often leaves scars, but they are usually non-lethal.

Both these types of cancer are caused by sun exposure over a lifetime and are most common in people over 40. Researchers feel the changes in the rates of these cancers result from people taking more care in the sun.

“For people to change their behaviour it can take approximately 20 years,” says Metelitsa. “So perhaps the fact that we’re finally seeing the change in those trends since the year 2000 is a partial reflection of that.”