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Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

8 April 2019

Introduction

Skin cancer includes non-melanoma and melanoma. It accounted for 3.6% of all new cancer cases in 2016.

Incidence

In 2016, there were 1147 new cases of skin cancer, with 1063 cases of non-melanoma and 84 cases of melanoma. The crude incidence rates were 14.5 and 1.1 for non-melanoma and melanoma per 100000 population respectively. The age-standardised incidence rates were 7.6 for non-melanoma and 0.6 for melanoma per 100000 standard population.

Trend of incidence

The age-standardised incidence rates for overall skin cancer (both non-melanoma and melanoma) and melanoma had no significant trend between 1983 and 2016 while the age-standardised incidence rate for non-melanoma had an upward trend between 1983 and 2016. 

Number of new cases of skin cancer, 1983-2000 (View)

Number of new cases of skin cancer, 2001-2016 (View)

Number of crude incidence rate of skin cancer, 1983-2000 (View)

Number of crude incidence rate of skin cancer, 2001-2016 (View)

Age-standardised incidence rate* of skin cancer, 1983-2016

Age-standardised incidence rate of skin cancer, 1983-2016

Notes:

*

Age-standardised incidence rates are compiled based on the world standard population specified in GPE Discussion Paper Series: No.31, EIP/GPE/EBD, World Health Organization, 2001.

 

 

Data in the above charts from 1996 onwards are compiled based on the population estimates under the "resident population" approach instead of the "extended de facto" approach. 

 

 

Classification of diseases and causes of death is based on the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) 10th Revision from 2001 onwards. Figures from 2001 onwards may not be comparable with figures for previous years which were compiled based on the ICD 9th Revision.

Sources:

 

Census and Statistics Department
Department of Health
Hong Kong Cancer Registry, Hospital Authority

 

Mortality

In 2017, a total of 78 people died from skin cancer which accounted for 0.5% of all cancer deaths. 26 deaths were due to non-melanoma and 52 deaths were due to melanoma. The crude death rates were 0.4 and 0.7 for non-melanoma and melanoma per 100000 population respectively. The age-standardised death rates for non-melanoma and melanoma were 0.2 and 0.4 per 100000 standard population respectively.

Trend of mortality

The age-stardardised death rate for overall skin cancer (both non-melanoma and melanoma) had no significant trend between 1981 and 2017.  The age-standardised death rate for non-melanoma had a downward trend between 1981 and 2017 while the age-standardised death rate for melanoma had an upward trend.

Number of registered deaths of skin cancer, 1981-2000 (View)

Number of registered deaths of skin cancer, 2001-2017 (View)

Number of crude death rate of skin cancer, 1981-2000 (View)

Number of crude death rate of skin cancer, 2001-2017 (View)

Age-standardised death rate* of skin cancer, 1981-2017

Age-standardised death rate of skin cancer, 1981-2016

 

Notes:

*

Age-standardised death rates are compiled based on the world standard population specified in GPE Discussion Paper Series: No.31, EIP/GPE/EBD, World Health Organization, 2001.

 

 

Data in the above charts from 1996 onwards are compiled based on the population estimates under the "resident population" approach instead of the "extended de facto" approach. 

 

 

Classification of diseases and causes of death is based on the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) 10th Revision from 2001 onwards. Figures from 2001 onwards may not be comparable with figures for previous years which were compiled based on the ICD 9th Revision.

Sources:

 

Census and Statistics Department
Department of Health

 

Skin cancer corresponds to codes 172-173 in ICD-9 and C43-C44 in ICD-10.  Melanoma and non-melanoma are C43 in ICD-10 (172 in ICD-9) and C44 in ICD-10 (173 in ICD-9) respectively. 

What is skin cancer?

Skin is the body's largest organ. The skin has three layers: epidermis, dermis and subcutis. The epidermis contains three main types of cells, including basal cells, squamous cells and melanocytes. There are two major types of skin cancer, namely non-melanoma (which includes basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma) and melanoma. Other less common types of skin cancer can arise from sweat glands and hair follicles.

Am I at risk of skin cancer?

The risk factors of skin cancer are:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources such as sun lamps or tanning beds
  • Have fair skin that burns easily and does not tan
  • Have red or blond hair and light-colored eyes
  • Presence of many moles on the body
  • Have pigmented spots, such as solar keratosis caused by chronic exposure of UV light radiation
  • Certain types of genetic problems that affect the skin e.g. xeroderma pigmentosum
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Have a history of sunburns, particularly at early age
  • UV light treatment due to skin disorders e.g. eczema, psoriasis
  • Exposure to carcinogenic substances, such as arsenic and tar bitumen
  • Weakened immune system (e.g. infected with human immunodeficiency virus, history of organ transplant)

How to reduce the chance of getting skin cancer? 

  • To minimise direct exposure of the skin to sunlight, especially when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest 
  • On days when the UV Index is high, you should avoid staying outdoors for prolonged periods.
  • If you must be out in the sun, take the following precautions:
    • Check the latest UV Index
    • Seek shade
    • Use an umbrella
    • Wear long-sleeved and loose-fitting clothing
    • Wear a broad brim hat
    • Wear UV blocking sunglasses
    • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen lotion blocking both UVA and UVB (with a Protection Grade of UVA (PA) of PA+ or above, and a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) for UVB of 15 to 30 or above). Apply liberally 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun, reapply regularly every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Do not use sun lamps or tanning beds
  • Observe occupational safety and health rules including proper use of protective equipment to reduce exposure to carcinogenic substances such as tar bitumen in workplaces
  • Check and seek medical advice for any suspicious changes in existing moles

What are the common symptoms of skin cancer?

Common symptoms of skin cancer include:

  • A mole or other growth you have not noticed before
  • A spot or sore that do not heal
  • A lesion that is itchy, painful, oozing or becomes inflamed
  • A mole or spot that gets bigger, changes shape or color
  • A mole with suspicious features such as asymmetrical appearance, irregular or indistinct border, uneven colour distribution and raised from the skin with irregular shape
  • A mole with suspicious features on the soles, toes, fingers, nail bed and nail fold

Therefore, anyone with the above suspicious skin changes should see a doctor as early as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Related information

To learn more about UV radiation, please visit the website of Hong Kong Observatory.

To know more health information related to UV radiation and its protective measures, please visit the website of the Centre for Health Protection and view "Safety under the Sun - Protect Yourself against UV Radiation" pamphlet.

The DH provides dermatological services to the public, please visit the List of Clinics and Health Centres at DH website. 

You may also call our 24-hour Health Education Hotline of the Department of Health 2833 0111 for more health information. Please click here to view the full list of health topics.