Cancer Stats 2014

28 May 2014

Regina -

Melanoma skin cancer is one of the fastest rising of all cancers in Canada; Canadians need to do more to protect themselves from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to a special report on skin cancer. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014 was released today by the Canadian Cancer Society in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Saskatchewan and is almost entirely preventable.” says Donna Ziegler, director cancer control for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan. “More needs to be done to educate the public about how to enjoy the sun in a safe way and to continue to advocate for a ban on indoor tanning for those under the age of 18.”

In Canada, an estimated 6,500 new cases of malignant melanoma and another 76,100 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are expected to be diagnosed in 2014. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with 1,050 Canadians expected to die from it this year.  

While the rate of new cases (incidence) and death rate for many types of cancer are going down in Canada (all rates are adjusted for age), for melanoma the story is less positive. According to the current report, which examined melanoma rates since 1986, melanoma has been increasing significantly in both men and women.

Those numbers don’t surprise 52 year old Chris Thompson. The Regina businessman was diagnosed with melanoma in his mid 40’s. “Those of us that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s weren’t aware of the risks of overexposure to the sun.  We spent much of our time during the summer months outside in shorts and shirtless without sun protection.  In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for people to use baby oil during that period to accelerate the tanning process. We are now witnessing the consequences of this behavior.  Since skin damage caused by the sun is a cumulative process, the trend we are seeing in rising skin cancer rates is likely to continue to increase until people become more aware and begin to change their behavior.” says Thompson.

Since his cancer scare, he says his attitude has changed. “I am much more respectful of the sun. I no longer spend time in the sun with the intent to get color – color is not a good thing,” says Thompson.


Dr. Roberta McKay is Thompson’s dermatologist. “Your skin…what is it worth? Skin does more than make you look beautiful - skin cancer can ruin that for you. Skin needs protection! Think about it, talk about it and remember skin is the largest organ in your body and is very important,” says McKay.


Chris Thompson, like many, also bought into the myth that indoor tanning before a winter vacation was safe but no longer believes that. “I know now, that using a tanning bed in preparation for a winter vacation was a mistake…it’s something I’ll never do again,” he adds.


Health groups including the Canadian Cancer Society have been advocating for a province-wide ban on indoor tanning for youth, something 7 other provinces have already done. But the Minister of Health has refused, saying he supports more education instead. Thompson, who sells personal life and health insurance says that while education is certainly important, he doesn’t believe it’s enough to change attitudes and behaviours on a meaningful scale. “When you’re trying to help people plan for the financial difficulties that unexpected health issues can create, it can be difficult to convince them of the risks. Many people just don’t believe it will happen to them despite the quantity of information they have available to them,” he adds.

Risk factors

The main risk for skin cancer is UV radiation through exposure to the sun or from other sources such as indoor tanning equipment.


Two national surveys of Canadians’ sun exposure and protective behaviours conducted over the past 2 decades show that Canadians are spending more time in the sun without adequate protection.


The proportion of adults who spent 2 or more hours in the summer sun on a typical summer day during their leisure time increased from 1996 to 2006, and they were more likely to spend at least 2 hours in the sun while on vacation. Despite this increase in sun exposure, there was no corresponding increase in the proportion of adults using any of the recommended forms of sun protection. In fact, significantly fewer Canadians reported wearing protective clothing and hats in 2006 compared to the decade earlier. As well, fewer adults reported hearing about or seeing the UV index, a key tool to help plan sun-protective actions.


“We are concerned that Canadians are spending more time in the sun without proper protection,” says Dr Robert Nuttall, Director, Cancer Control Policy, Canadian Cancer Society. “The survey results remind us of the important role that health organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, have to play in encouraging Canadians to protect themselves from UV radiation.”

Tanning beds are high-output UV machines that deliver intense doses of radiation designed to produce rapid and deeply coloured tans. The amount of radiation emitted has been documented to be many times more than natural sun at midday in summer. The World Health Organization classifies tanning beds as a known factor that causes cancer in humans. According to research, people who first started using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 have a 59% increased risk of melanoma.


Risk of melanoma due to intermittent, intense UV exposure, especially during childhood, is almost double in people with fair skin, red hair and multiple or atypical moles. It is estimated that children and adolescents who get 5 or more sunburns have double the risk for melanoma later in life. A family history of melanoma, which means having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with melanoma, is associated with a 2- to 4-fold increase in the risk of melanoma. Having a prior diagnosis of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer increases the risk of a subsequent melanoma diagnosis.


“The good news is that there are simple ways to protect yourself against UV radiation,” says Dr Nuttall. Some of the ways are:

  • Plan outdoor activities before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m., when the sun is not at its strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or less.
  • Seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
  • Use sunscreen properly – apply to all parts of the body that are not covered by clothing.
  • Don’t use indoor tanning.


Economic cost of skin cancers in Canada

According to the most recent estimates,* the economic burden of skin cancer in Canada was $532 million per year. Of that $532 million, 83.4% was attributable to melanoma and the remainder to the 2 major types of non-melanoma skin cancer – 9.1% to basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 7.5% to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It was estimated that the economic burden of skin cancer would rise to $922 million annually by 2031, with BCC and SCC accounting for an increasing proportion of costs.


Trends in melanoma incidence and death


Melanoma skin cancer accounts for about 3% of all new cancer cases. While melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it represents only about 1.4% of all cancer deaths because of the good prognosis resulting from early detection.


The incidence rate of melanoma has increased significantly among men and women in Canada over the past 25 years. The death rate is also rising, representing the second greatest increase after liver cancer deaths in men and lung cancer in women.


  • One in 59 Canadian men will develop melanoma in his lifetime, and 1 in 240 will die from it. In men, the incidence rate increased 2% per year between 1986 and 2010, from 9 to 15 cases per 100,000. The death rate has increased by 1.2% per year.


  • One in 73 Canadian women will develop melanoma in her lifetime, and 1 in 395 will die from it. In women, the incidence rate increased 1.5% per year between 1986 and 2010, from 8 to 12 cases per 100,000. The death rate increased by 0.4% per year.


Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC)

NMSC represents at least 30% of all new cancer cases in Canada, but good estimates of the true burden of this type of cancer are not available because, unlike melanoma, it is not routinely reported as part of cancer surveillance. There are 2 subtypes of NMSC – about 80% of NMSC is basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 20% is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). BCC is usually slow growing, whereas SCC tends to be more aggressive and can spread to other parts of the body. The risk factors and ways to prevent it are the same as for melanoma.


Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014 was prepared through a partnership of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada and provincial and territorial cancer registries. For more information about Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014, visit cancer.ca


* Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The economic burden of skin cancer in Canada: current and projected. Final Report: CPAC, Feb. 26, 2010.

 For more information, see Saskatchewan cancer statistics

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For more information, please contact:

Donna Pasiechnik

Manager, Tobacco Control, Media & Government Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Saskatchewan Division

Phone: 306-790-9871