Australia's most common cancer on the rise but hard to track

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is by far the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, but we don't know just how common it is, according to a report jointly released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Cancer Australia.

'In 2008, around 434,000 people will be diagnosed with one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia, and data from 2006 show that there were over 400 deaths in that year from NMSC,' said Prof David Roder, commenting on the report.

'But unlike other cancers, NMSC is not reportable by law to cancer registries. As a result, incidence and prevalence statistics are not routinely available,' he said.

The AIHW report, Non-melanoma skin cancer: General practice consultations, hospitalisation and mortality, is intended to fill some of the gaps in data availability by analysing the impact these cancers have on doctors' workloads, hospital inpatient admissions and mortality.

'It found that there were an estimated 950,000 GP visits per year (between April 2005 and March 2007) for NMSC. As a proportion of all GP consultations, male visits for NMSC were almost double that of females,' said Melissa Goodwin of the AIHW's Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit.

Hospital stays for NMSC more than doubled between 1993-94 and 2006-07, from 35,833 to 79,792.

'Again, we found that rates for males were much higher. In this case hospital rates were almost 75% higher than for females,' she said.

As with many other cancers, non-melanoma skin cancer mortality rates were significantly higher in outer regional areas and significantly lower in the most socioeconomically advantaged areas.

The report showed that while incidence rates, general practitioner visits, and hospital inpatient rates all increased over time, there was no corresponding increase in mortality rates.


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