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Summary

Background  An examination of melanoma incidence according to anatomical region may be one method of monitoring the impact of public health initiatives.

Objectives  To examine melanoma incidence trends by body site, sex and age at diagnosis or body site and morphology in a population at high risk.

Materials and methods  Population-based data on invasive melanoma cases (= 51 473) diagnosed between 1982 and 2008 were extracted from the Queensland Cancer Registry. Age-standardized incidence rates were calculated using the direct method (2000 world standard population) and joinpoint regression models were used to fit trend lines.

Results  Significantly decreasing trends for melanomas on the trunk and upper limbs/shoulders were observed during recent years for both sexes under the age of 40 years and among males aged 40–59 years. However, in the 60 and over age group, the incidence of melanoma is continuing to increase at all sites (apart from the trunk) for males and on the scalp/neck and upper limbs/shoulders for females. Rates of nodular melanoma are currently decreasing on the trunk and lower limbs. In contrast, superficial spreading melanoma is significantly increasing on the scalp/neck and lower limbs, along with substantial increases in lentigo maligna melanoma since the late 1990s at all sites apart from the lower limbs.

Conclusions  In this large study we have observed significant decreases in rates of invasive melanoma in the younger age groups on less frequently exposed body sites. These results may provide some indirect evidence of the impact of long-running primary prevention campaigns.