Skin cancer in Australia provides comprehensive national information and statistics on skin cancer. It includes the latest available data and estimates to 2016, as well as trends over time. The report also describes risk factors, and presents a section on the limitations of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) data in Australia, as well as future opportunities.

Skin cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia

Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year.

In 2016, an estimated 13,280 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in Australia, and 1,770 people will die from this disease. The age-standardised incidence rate of melanoma has increased from 27 cases per 100,000 in 1982 to 49 per 100,000 in 2016. However, for people aged less than 40 the incidence rate has dropped from a peak of 13 cases per 100,000 in 2002 to an estimated 9.4 per 100,000 in 2016. Between 1982 and 2016, the age-standardised mortality rate has risen from 4.7 deaths per 100,000 to an estimated 6.2 deaths per 100,000.

The total number of new cases of NMSC is unknown because the most recent data available for the two most commonly diagnosed NMSCs is for 2002. NMSC was estimated to account for more cases diagnosed than all other cancers combined in 2002. In 2016, an estimated 560 people will die from NMSC, with a mortality rate of 1.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Hospitalisations for skin cancer are on the rise

In 2013–14, there were 23,437 melanoma-related hospitalisations in Australia, a 63% rise from 2002–03 (14,348). In 2013–14, 20,100 dermatological and plastic melanoma-related procedures and 4,727 melanoma-related chemotherapy procedures were performed.

In 2013–14, there were 114,722 NMSC-related hospitalisations in Australia, a 39% rise from 2002–03 (82,431). In 2013–14, 250,011 dermatological and plastic melanoma-related procedures and 1,582 melanoma-related chemotherapy procedures were performed.

Survival from melanoma is relatively high

In 2007–2011, people diagnosed with melanoma had a 90% chance of surviving at least five years compared with their counterparts in the general Australian population. This is much higher than the five-year survival rate for all cancers combined (67%). Five-year relative survival rates reduced with increasing age, from 95% for people aged 0–39 to 80% for those aged 80 and over.

Melanoma is less common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2005–2009, the age-standardised incidence rate for Indigenous Australians was 9.3 cases per 100,000, compared with 33 cases per 100,000 for non-Indigenous Australians.

There is substantial spending on skin cancer each year

In 2014, 40,179 ($9.4 million) Medicare benefits claims were paid for melanoma and 959,243 ($127.6 million) for NMSC. In 2008–09, NMSC accounted for 8.1% of all health system spending on cancer in Australia (excluding cancer screening).