New Zealand has highest rate of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma in the world outside Australia

May 23, 2018


Aim: Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most commonly diagnosed and most costly cancer in Australasia. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) accounts for approximately 25% of NMSC. Despite this, reporting of cSCC is not mandatory in Australasia. This creates difficulties in planning, resourcing and improving outcomes in cSCC. Previous studies in New Zealand have lacked data on ethnicity. The aim of this study was to define the incidence and demographics of cSCC diagnosed in Northland, New Zealand, including data on ethnicity.

Method: A 12-month retrospective study was carried out of all primary cSCC histologically diagnosed in Northland for one year. The cohort was identified by searching the Northland District Health Board pathology database. Data on outcomes and ethnicity were obtained from the hospital results system. Primary outcome of interest was the incidence of cSCC in Northland. Secondary outcomes of interest were lesion characteristics and positive margin rate.

Results: 1,040 cSCC were identified in 890 patients. Mean age of patients was 75. Crude incidence of primary cSCC was 668/100,000 patient years. Age standardised incidence was 305/100,000 patient years. An estimate of New Zealand incidence adjusted for age and ethnicity is 580/100,000 patient years. Overall positive margin rate in excised lesions was 9.5%.

Conclusion: This study has defined the rate of cSCC in a large, well defined New Zealand population, and estimated age and ethnicity adjusted incidence in New Zealand. It has demonstrated the highest incidence of cSCC in the world outside Australia. Overall positive margin rate of excised lesions was acceptable.


Elliott BMDouglass BRMcConnell DJohnson BHarmston C. Incidence, demographics and surgical outcomes of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma diagnosed in Northland, New Zealand. The New Zealand Medical Journal. 2018, Volume 131 Number 1475.

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