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The incidence and body site of skin cancers in the population groups of South Africa


  • Mary Norval,

    Corresponding author
    1. Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland
    • Correspondence:

      Professor Mary Norval, B.Sc., PhD, D.Sc., Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK.

      Tel: +44 1316503167


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  • Patricia Kellett,

    1. National Cancer Registry, National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa
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  • Caradee Yael Wright

    1. Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Research Group, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Natural Resources and the Environment, Pretoria, South Africa
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  • Conflicts of interest:

    None declared.



Data regarding basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (SSCC) and cutaneous melanoma (CM) in multiracial populations are sparse. Here the incidence and body site of these tumours in the South African population in 2000–2004 were analysed.


Annual age-standardized incidences and body sites of BCC, SSCC and CM in black, coloured, Asian and white groups were obtained from histological confirmed cases, reported to the National Cancer Registry.


Highest annual incidences of BCC, SSCC and CM occurred in the white group, followed by coloured, then Asian and then black. BCCs and SSCCs were about twice as common in males than females. CM was the least frequent skin tumour, and BCC the most frequent, except in black people. The head was the commonest body site for SSCC and BCC in all groups and both sexes, whereas the lower limb was the predominant site for CM in black people. Mean age at diagnosis was generally mid-50s for CM, and mid-60s for BCC and SSCC.


In South Africa, differences in reported incidence rates and body sites of skin tumours by population group and sex occur. Host characteristics, particularly skin phototype, and personal behaviour are likely to affect the risk of these cancers.