Incidence and Mortality

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Alberta and accounts for more than one-third of all new cancer cases. Between 1986 and 2010, the incidence rate of melanoma increased significantly among both men and women, rising 2% per year in men and 1.5% per year in women. The mortality rate from melanoma has also increased over time but not as strongly as the incidence rate.

Together, melanoma and NMSC will account for nearly the same number of new cancer cases as the four major cancers (lung, breast, colorectal and prostate) combined.

Skin Cancer by the Numbers

6,500 new cases of malignant melanoma expected to be diagnosed in 2014
76,100 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses projected for 2014
1,050 number of Canadians who will die from melanoma this year
24 years, from 1986 to 2010: 2% increase annually of melanoma in men, 1.5% increase annually of melanoma in women
50 percentage of Canadians over age 65 who have had some form of skin cancer
95 percentage of skin cancers that are curable if caught early

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Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014 report from the Canadian Cancer Society

Types of Skin Cancer


While melanoma is the least common kind of skin cancer, it is the leading cause of skin cancer deaths. It develops from an abnormal growth of the cells which produce melanin, the dark pigment in skin. When left untreated, it reaches the blood stream or lymphatic system and spreads to other parts of the body, often resulting in death. Experts estimate about 90% of melanomas are associated with severe UVR exposure and sunburns over a lifetime.

It can look like:

  • A freckle or mole that changes in size, shape or colour
  • Has irregular edges or borders
  • Is asymmetrical
  • Has a diameter > 7mm
  • Is inflamed
  • Changes in sensation
  • Oozes, bleeds or is ulcerated (a hole forms in the skin)
  • Change in pigmented skin
  • New moles growing near an existing mole.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Basal cells usually appear on sun-exposed areas – most commonly the face and neck – but also on the trunk, arms and legs.

It can look like:

  • Firm, flesh coloured or slightly reddish bump, often with a pearly border
  • It may have small blood vessels on the surface, giving it a red colour
  • A sore or pimple-like growth that bleeds, crusts over and then reappears; any sore that does not heal within four weeks should be examined by your dermatologist
  • A small, red, scaling patch seen most often on the trunk or limbs.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma occurs on areas that have been exposed to the sun, or burned, and is particularly prevalent on chronically sun-exposed areas such as the head and neck, arm, back of the hand and leg. It can also occur on the rim of the ear and the lip—and the cancer can be more aggressive at these locations.

It can look like:

  • Thickened, red scaly bumps or like a wart-like growth
  • An open sore or crusted skin.

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Secondary Cancers

One of the most dangerous aspects of skin cancer isn’t just being diagnosed with skin cancer. Tough to believe, isn't it? But, the fact is, once you get skin cancer you have a 20-30% increased risk of developing another kind of cancer.27 Doctors call it a second primary cancer, or an SPC.

Secondary cancers are still a primary risk.

An SPC is a tumour that develops independently in another part of the body away from the initial skin cancer. This can occur months, even years after the skin cancer has been treated. If you’ve had skin cancer, you have a high risk of the cancer recurring or it spreading to other areas of your body.28

Melanoma is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, breast cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney and cancers of the mouth, while non-melanoma cancers can lead to a wide variety of different cancers–but predominantly head and neck cancers.29

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