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Summary

Background  Melanoma incidence and mortality in Europe are high but there are significant gaps in the epidemiological information available across the continent.

Objectives  With the aim of enhancing the planning of educational programmes for reducing the melanoma burden in Europe, we analysed the most recent incidence and mortality data for Europe with a new focus on the regional disparities of melanoma reporting.

Methods  GLOBOCAN 2008, the standard set of worldwide estimates of cancer incidence and mortality produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer for 2008, was used to provide the estimated age-standardized rates (world standard population) of melanoma incidence and mortality in European countries and regions.

Results  The estimated age-standardized incidence of melanoma (measured per 100 000 person-years) varies widely from 19·2 in Switzerland to 2·2 in Greece. The incidence rate of 4·3 of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is less than half of that of Western Europe. Melanoma mortality rates of 1·5 are similar in CEE and Western Europe, although rates vary with a high of 3·2 in Norway and a low of 0·9 in Greece. Over 20 000 deaths from melanoma were estimated in Europe in 2008, with CEE having the largest share (35·5%) among the four geographical European regions. Population-based data are lacking for significant parts of CEE, which must rely on estimates.

Conclusions  The most recent estimates of melanoma incidence and mortality in Europe reveal sharp differences between European countries, possibly related to missed opportunities for early diagnosis and incomplete reporting of melanoma in Eastern Europe.