Melanoma Epidemiology and Early Detection in Europe: Diversity and Disparities

Dermatol Pract Concept. 2020 Jun 29;10(3):e2020033. doi: 10.5826/dpc.1003a33. eCollection 2020 Jul.


Melanoma claims annually more than 20,000 lives in Europe and is an important public health burden through its continuously increasing incidence and with its high mortality, costs, and complexity of care in advanced stages. Epidemiological surveillance is indispensable for the research into its causes, new prognostic markers, and innovative therapies, as well as for the building of efficient cancer control plans. However, important differences in the sources and availability of accurate epidemiological data exist among European countries and regions, contributing to a heterogeneous picture with 20-fold differences in the reported national melanoma incidence rates, divergent mortality trends, and solid disparities in survival across the Continent. Countries in the eastern half of Europe report the lowest incidence rates, but high case fatality, persisting and increasing mortality, a higher proportion of thicker tumors and late diagnosis, and lower survival rates. They are the least well equipped with quality cancer registration and reporting, and they lag behind in efficient cancer control plans implementation. This review highlights the main differences in melanoma epidemiology across Europe, together with an insight into their underlying causes in the areas of melanoma registration, early diagnosis, and prevention. These differences should be acknowledged and understood by physicians, researchers, and all stakeholders involved in improving melanoma care and outcomes, as no one-size-fits-all solution can tackle the melanoma problem in Europe. Instead, there is a need for nuanced strategies, adapted to the heterogeneous national and regional contexts, that would build on European diversity to eliminate the outcome disparities.

Keywords: Europe; disparities; early detection; epidemiology; melanoma.

Publication types

  • Review