Skin cancer: More and more cases of melanoma

Quebecers are still too reckless in the sun, as evidenced by the steady rise in cases of melanoma each year, even though this serious form of skin cancer is largely preventable.

“There is no such thing as a healthy tan! You have to get that out of your head,” says Ivan Litvinov, a researcher at McGill University.

He has just published a study showing that the incidence of melanoma in the country continues to increase each year, but also that residents of coastal regions and those with milder temperatures and less rain are at greater risk.

For example, prices are higher in southern Ontario and Nova Scotia. However, his study excludes Quebec because the Department of Health and Human Services has not had public data since 2017.

“I believe that much of Quebec is comparable to the Canadian regions hardest hit by melanoma,” emphasizes the Dright Litvinov.

Significant increase

According to the Quebec Cancer Registry, the incidence of melanoma has increased by 158% over the past 10 years. The province had 683 diagnoses of this cancer in 2007 and 1,763 in 2017.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, melanoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in people between the ages of 15 and 49.

And despite the rise in the incidence of melanoma, death rates have fallen by about 5% in recent years, according to data from the Canadian Cancer Society. A sign that treatments are improving, even if it remains the deadliest skin cancer.

“But no one should die from melanoma, it’s preventable,” the researcher continues.

Far from inviting Quebecers to lock themselves in and spend the day on the couch, he favors responsible behavior. He lists wearing a hat, sunscreen, longer clothing, or even avoiding midday when the sun is beating harder.

But in Quebec, for example, the sun isn’t even strong enough for our bodies to produce vitamin D, he adds. Therefore, people prefer to rely on fortified foods than on the sun to get full.

A melanoma… in the nails

Melanoma affects more men, with the exception of one category: fingers and nails.

“Because of UV rays in living rooms,” he believes. According to the study published in the journal, women are more likely to develop this cancer, called lentiginous melanoma of the extremities frontiers in medicine.

Males are more at risk on the skull, face, and upper body. In women, melanoma is more common on the legs.

He advocates a culture change that no longer values ​​a tanned complexion. He calls Australia a country with a head start. There, parents who do not put sunscreen on their children are viewed as smokers who are exposing their child to second-hand smoke.


  • An incidence of 21 cases per 100,000 population from 2011 to 2017
  • The incidence from 1992 to 2010 was 12 cases per 100,000 population
  • More common in males (54%), except for cases on fingers and nails
  • In men: 39% of melanomas on the upper body, 24% on the head and 22% on the neck and shoulders
  • In women: 32% of melanomas on the legs and 29 on the neck and shoulders
  • 32% reduction in mortality rate, thanks in particular to targeted immunotherapy treatments.

Source: McGill University

A much more serious cancer than you think

A 38-year-old South Shore woman who has overcome melanoma is warning Quebecers and suggesting they get counseling quickly as the consequences can be serious.

“Melanoma isn’t just on the skin. It penetrates the tissues and the blood and spreads quickly,” emphasizes Erin Lawrence.

The Saint-Amable woman was diagnosed in 2018. A black, swollen mole appeared behind her knee.

And although she did not hesitate and was treated quickly, the operation was much larger than she had imagined.

Tissue the size of a golf ball had to be removed from the knee, but also up to the thigh, where the tumor had spread. She also received immunotherapy to eradicate the cancer.

And although the cancer hasn’t returned four years later, its effects are still being felt.

“It’s a lot of work. Every six months there are examinations, blood tests, appointments where I have to stay away from work,” she emphasizes.

more severe cases

For his part, the Dright Joël Claveau, a dermatologist at CHU de Québec and a melanoma specialist, is also concerned about the impact of the pandemic.

“We see a lot of very advanced melanomas,” he says, adding that patients waited too long to consult.

He says he treats “terrible tumors,” sometimes the size of blueberries on the skin.

“You don’t feel anything with melanoma. Patients tell me “it didn’t hurt, it doesn’t itch, it doesn’t burn, it’s been there for a long time,” explains the expert.

To unravel a birthmark from a malignant tumor, the dermatologist offers the ABCDE method.

Asymmetry, an irregular border, black color or a mixture of brown and red, greater than seven millimeters in diameter, and lesion evolution over time.

And if getting a dermatologist in Quebec has been a challenge in recent years, he’s hoping the teledermatology announced by Quebec this week can reduce delays.

The Virtual Care Platform (VSP) allows patients to be seen remotely by a dermatologist to whom photos are sent.

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