Atmosphere Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Dr Peter Manins, Environmental Consulting and Research Unit, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06746 9
Stratospheric Ozone (continued)
Health effects linked to UV exposure [A Indicator 2.8]
Skin cancer is the major type of cancer in Australia. Malignant melanoma has been increasing in incidence in white populations worldwide at 3 to 7% per year since the early 1960s. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, 28 per 100 000 person-years in 1990. Melanoma incidence has been recorded since the late 1970s in most states and has doubled in both men and women from 1980 to 2000. There are only limited data on trends from three national surveys for the incidence of non-melanocytic skin cancer. In 1990, the Australian incidence rate for this form of cancer was 980 per 100 000 person-years, and the incidence rate in 1995 was more than 25% higher than in 1985. These surveys underestimate the true incidence rate because they do not include people with undiagnosed or untreated non-melanocytic skin cancer.
Because of the very long lead time between exposure to UV radiation and the related occurrence of skin cancer, the increasing incidences of skin cancers in Australia (Figure 82) from 1980 to 1996 are thought to be associated primarily with behaviour in relation to exposure to UV radiation that presumably took effect before there was any significant depletion of the ozone layer. However, it is reasonable to assume that any increase in UV radiation as a result of ozone depletion has contributed, and will contribute, to increases in the incidence of skin cancer.
Figure 82: Australian incidence rates of malignant melanoma (MM, per 10 000 person-years) and non-melanocytic skin cancer (NMSC, per 1000 person-years).
Source: ABS (2003c)
The 20% increase in skin-reddening radiation likely to have occurred in summer on clear-sky days over southern Australia from 1980 to 1996 has probably contributed to the rising incidences of skin cancer. Quantifying this contribution is complicated by changing habits in relation to exposure to UV radiation. The data on skin cancer incidences needs to be updated and published regularly.