The effect of skin examination surveys on the incidence of basal cell carcinoma in a Queensland community sample: a 10-year longitudinal study

J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2004 Mar;9(2):148-51. doi: 10.1046/j.1087-0024.2003.09114.x.


Skin cancers pose a significant public health problem in high-risk populations. We have prospectively monitored basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) incidence in a Queensland community over a 10-y period by recording newly treated lesions, supplemented by skin examination surveys. Age-standardized incidence rates of people with new histologically confirmed BCC were 2787 per 100,000 person-years at risk (pyar) among men and 1567 per 100,000 pyar among women, and corresponding tumor rates were 5821 per 100,000 pyar and 2733 per 100,000 pyar, respectively. Incidence rates for men with new SCC were 944 per 100,000 pyar and for women 675 per 100,000 pyar; tumor rates were 1754 per 100,000 pyar and 846 per 100,000 pyar, respectively. Incidence rates of BCC tumors but not SCC tumors varied noticeably according to method of surveillance, with BCC incidence rates based on skin examination surveys around three times higher than background treatment rates. This was mostly due to an increase in diagnosis of new BCC on sites other than the head and neck, arms, and hands associated with skin examination surveys and little to do with advancing the time of diagnosis of BCC on these sites as seen by a return to background rates following the examination surveys. We conclude that BCC that might otherwise go unreported are detected during skin examination surveys and thus that such skin cancer screening can influence the apparent burden of skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*