Regional clinical registry data show increased incidence of cutaneous melanoma in Cape Town

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South African Medical Journal

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University of Cape Town

Cutaneous melanoma is a skin tumour that continues to result in a high mortality rate, particularly in the case of thick tumours and those that are deeply invasive histologically. It occurs in all populations but is most common in fair-skinned individuals, especially those with skin types 1 and 2 that tan poorly or not at all. There is epidemiological evidence for the pathogenetic role of ultraviolet light, particularly intense childhood exposure, although the relationship is complex. Genetic factors also play a role, as exemplified by families with both atypical naevi and melanoma. The rising incidence of melanoma, noted initially in countries with high levels of UV light, appears to be levelling off or decreasing in some areas. The pattern of these trends is inconsistent, with even European countries showing great variation. An epidemiological study performed in Cape Town from 1990 to 1995 demonstrated an incidence of melanoma of 24.4 per 100 000 white people per annum. We conducted a methodologically identical study in the same geographical area after a 10-year interval, to identify whether there is a trend in the incidence of melanoma in this area.