Changing epidemiology of malignant cutaneous melanoma in Europe 1953-1997: rising trends in incidence and mortality but recent stabilizations in western Europe and decreases in Scandinavia

Int J Cancer. 2003 Oct 20;107(1):119-26. doi: 10.1002/ijc.11360.


We analyzed time trends in incidence of and mortality from malignant cutaneous melanoma in European populations since 1953. Data were extracted from the EUROCIM database of incidence data from 165 cancer registries. Mortality data were derived from the WHO database. During the 1990s, incidence rates were by far highest in northern and western Europe, whereas mortality was higher in males in eastern and southern Europe. Melanoma rates have been rising steadily, albeit with substantial geographic variation. In northern Europe, a deceleration in these trends occurred recently in persons aged under 70. Joinpoint analyses indicated that changes in these trends took place in the early 1980s. In western Europe, mortality rates have also recently leveled off [estimated annual percentage change (EAPC) from -13.6% (n.s.) to 3.3%], whereas in eastern and southern Europe both incidence and mortality rates are still increasing [incidence EAPCs 2.3-8.9%, mortality EAPCs -1.8% (n.s.) to 7.2%]. Models including the effects of age, period and birth cohort were required to adequately describe the rising incidence trends in most European populations, with a few exceptions. Time trends in mortality were adequately summarized on fitting either an age-cohort model (with the leveling off of rates starting in birth cohorts between 1930 and 1940) or an age-period-cohort model. The most plausible explanations for the deceleration or decline in the incidence and mortality trends in recent years in northern (and to a lesser extent western) Europe are earlier detection and more frequent excision of pigmented lesions and a growing public awareness of the dangers of excessive sunbathing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Melanoma / mortality*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors