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Melanoma mortality rates to drop by 2050

Jackey Suen
16 Feb 2017

Mortality rates of melanoma are predicted to fall by 2050, but the number of individuals dying from the disease will increase due to population growth and ageing.

Professor Philippe Autier and colleagues from the International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France, predicted the annual number of melanoma deaths until 2050 using Australia, the US and Sweden as examples. The predictions were based on melanoma mortality data from the WHO mortality database. [ECCO 2017, abstract 1144]

“In our prediction model, the age-adjusted melanoma mortality rate peaked around 2015 in Australian men and 1990 in Australian women, around 2005 in American men and 1995 in American women, and around 2010 in Swedish men and women,” reported Autier.

“In 2050, the melanoma mortality rate in Australia will be two-fold lower than in the peak years, falling back to the rates seen in 1970 for men and before 1960 for women. In the US, the rates will be 2.5 to three times lower than in the peak years, falling to rates that prevailed before 1960. In Sweden, the rates will be 1.5 times lower than in the peak years, falling to rates seen around 1985,” he continued.

However, the number of melanoma deaths will start decreasing only after 2030 and will remain high in 2050, due to population ageing and growth. For example, the annual number of melanoma deaths in Australian men was projected to increase from 1,007 in 2010 to 1,354 in 2030, and fall back to 1,124 in 2050.

“We predicted these numbers based on the assumption that no effective melanoma treatment exists,” Autier noted. “With an effective therapy, the number of melanoma deaths will decrease before 2030.”

In another study, Autier and colleagues found that intensive exposure to UV radiation was the main reason for the highest risk of melanoma mortality in individuals born between 1900 and 1960. [ECCO 2017, abstract 1201]

“At that time, healthcare professionals believed that exposure to UV light and sunshine could heal some skin infections and rickets without knowing its drawbacks,” said Autier. “This fashion faded in the 1960s as effective treatments became available and people became more aware of the risk of melanoma associated with sun exposure and sunburn during childhood.”

“As time passes, melanoma deaths will become steadily rarer in individuals below 50 years of age. After 2050, practically all melanoma deaths will occur in those above 70 years of age,” he added.

“Malignant melanoma is one of our most common cancers and we have tried different ways to increase awareness about protection and early diagnosis. If the predictions are right, protection from sun exposure is one of the best strategies for primary prevention of melanoma, and this study proves that all efforts to protect a population from unhealthy amounts of sun exposure are worthwhile,” commented ECCO President Professor Peter Naredi of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

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