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Deaths from melanoma have peaked in Australia

Photo: Melanoma death rate in Aust has 'peaked'
By 2050 the death rate from malignant melanoma will have decreased but the number of people dying from the disease will have increased, new modelling shows.

Deaths from melanoma have peaked in Australia with research clearly showing the UV-protection of children is paying off.

New data presented at the European Cancer Congress 2017 showed the death rate for melanoma peaked around 2015 for Australian men and in 1990 for Australian women.

In another sign the 'sunburn country' was winning the melanoma prevention war, researchers predict that by 2050 the melanoma death rate in Australia will be half than in the peak years, falling back to rates seen in the 1960s and '70s.
But the researchers from the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France warn more older Australians - the generation before the 'slip, slop, slap' campaign institutionalised preventative sun-safe strategies - will die from the disease over the next decade, reinforcing the need for effective drug treatments.

According to the modelling, the researchers predict:

  • Male death rate predicted to fall from 9 to 4 per 100,000 in 2050.
  • Female death rate will fall from 3.5 to 1.7 per 100,000 people.
  • The number of Australians to die from melanoma will continue to rise until 2030-2035.
  • Male deaths to increase from 1007 in 2010 to 1354 in 2030, falling back to 1124 in 2050.
  • Female deaths to increase from 410 in 2010 to 570 in 2030, falling back to 544 in 2050.
  • Those born between 1900 and 1960 have the highest risk of dying from melanoma.
"Our findings clearly show that most of the death toll due to melanoma has been caused by medically-backed exposures to highly carcinogenic UV radiation between 1900 and 1960," said researcher Alice Koechlin.

It's important to note the statistical modelling was based on the assumption that no effective therapy exists for melanoma.

"With an effective therapy, we would expect to see decreases in the number of melanoma deaths from 2030," Ms Koechlin said.

"After 2050, practically all melanoma deaths will occur in people over the age of 70," she added.

The findings unambiguously prove that UV-protection of children has been a successful strategy.

Unfortunately, they also show that skin screening does not affect melanoma mortality, Ms Koechlin said.

"The good news is that the risk declines rapidly as skin protection increases, and that effective treatments are starting to be available. But we still have a long way to go before we will have affordable therapies able to prolong survival from advanced melanoma by several years with a decent quality of life."


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