Melanoma rates rising in Canada


A new study from McGill University in Montreal shows that the incidence of melanoma is increasing in southern and coastal areas of Canada. However, the researchers also note although more cases have been diagnosed, mortality rates are on the decrease for the first time since 2013, likely due to new, targeted immunotherapy treatments.


“Melanoma incidence is not uniform across Canada and there are some pockets of the country that are affected much more than the others,” Dr. Ivan Litvinov said in a press release. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University.


“Cutaneous melanoma causes more deaths than any other skin cancer, accounting for 1.9 per cent of all cancer deaths in men and 1.2 per cent in women in Canada. Globally, there were 290,000 new cases of this form of skin cancer in 2018,” Dr. Litvinov said.


According to the report published in Frontiers in Medicine, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia had the highest incidence rates of melanoma in the country, even after adjusting for other factors such as age. Rates in New Brunswick, Ontario, and British Columbia were also high but comparable to the national average of 20.75 cases per 100,000 people per year. The prairie provinces and Newfoundland and Labrador had lower rates than the Canadian average.


The authors found that melanoma incidence was higher in males (54%) than females (46%), although acral lentiginous melanoma was more frequent in women. “This is possibly due to higher exposure to ultraviolet radiation in nail salons,” Dr. Litvinov noted in the press release.


For men, skin cancer was more common on the trunk and in the head and neck areas. For women, it was more common in the legs and arms. Rates of melanoma were also higher in people over the age of 60 years.


Melanoma rates are likely to increase with climate change and the thinning of the Earth’s ozone layer, Dr. Litvinov added.


He stressed the importance of public education campaigns that target people living in high-risk geographic areas. These campaigns should also target men and women differently. “We need to encourage women to protect their legs and arms from the sun, while for men sun exposure on the torso, head and neck is the main problem,” said Dr. Litvinov.

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