BACKGROUND. Excessive sun exposure and a high prevalence of HIV increase skin cancer risk in South Africa (SA).
OBJECTIVE. To describe the nature and extent of skin cancers presenting in the public and private health sectors of the Northern Cape
Province of SA.
METHODS. A retrospective analysis of histologically confirmed new primary cutaneous malignancies from 1 January 2008 to 31 December
2012 was conducted using public and private health sector databases. Types, quantity and distribution of common invasive malignancies by
population group, age, gender, anatomical site and health sector were explored. One-year cumulative incidence was calculated and logistic
regression models were used to analyse incidence and melanoma thickness trends.
RESULTS. A total of 4 270 biopsies (13 cutaneous malignancies) were identified. The commonest was squamous cell carcinoma (SCC),
followed by basal cell carcinoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) and basosquamous carcinoma, in
descending order. The odds of a white male developing SCC increased by 8% each year (odds ratio (OR) 1.08, 95% confidence interval
(CI) 1.01 - 1.15; p=0.022), while the odds of a black male developing SCC and KS decreased by 9% (OR 0.91, 95% CI 0.84 - 0.99; p=0.033)
and 18% (OR 0.82, 95% CI 0.70 - 0.97; p=0.022), respectively, each year. SCC and CMM were diagnosed at more advanced stages in the
public than in the private healthcare sector. CMM is being detected earlier, as indicated by low-stage depth increasing by 72% annually (OR
1.72, 95% CI 1.04 - 3.01; p=0.042).
CONCLUSIONS. Results suggest that reported skin cancer patterns are changing. There is a need for further research and equitable
appropriation of financial resources and effort towards developing primary skin cancer prevention initiatives in SA.