More Queenslanders Die From Thin Melanomas Than From Thick Melanomas

More Queenslanders die from thin melanomas than from thick melanomas, a study has shown. The findings challenge a widely held belief that most melanoma deaths result from thick lesions.

The incidence of melanoma has been rising steadily in fair-skinned populations around the world, with most of the increase owing to a greater number of lesions being diagnosed. There is a widespread perception that most deaths from melanoma are a result of thick lesions – that is, tumours bigger than four millimetres. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this assumption. Australian researchers subsequently undertook a study using data from Queensland, which has the highest rate of melanoma in the world.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, analysed data on the incidence and mortality of melanoma in Queensland from 1990 to 2009, as documented by the Queensland Cancer Registry (QCR). Notification of cancer to QCR has been legally mandated since 1982, and reporting of melanoma has been near complete since 1990.

From 1990 to 2009, 4,218 Queenslanders died from cutaneous melanoma. Sixty-seven percent of these were males, while 33 percent were females. Overall, 22 percent of these patients first presented with metastatic disease, 68 percent presented with a single primary lesion, and 10 percent had multiple primary tumours.

Challenging expectations, the study found that more people died from thin melanomas than from thick ones. From 1990 to 1994, 14 percent of melanoma deaths were caused by thin lesions, but this raised to 23 percent between 2005 and 2009. Thin lesions accounted for 68 percent of all melanomas, including those that were not fatal.

In comparison, thick lesions attributed to 14 percent of melanoma deaths in the 2005-2009 period and formed just three percent of all melanomas. Additionally, metastatic tumours were the cause of 16 percent of deaths but also formed just three percent of all melanomas.

The study concluded that, in the more recent period of 2005-2009, more melanoma deaths in Queensland were attributable to thin lesions. As expected, the intervals from diagnosis to death were significantly shorter for thicker tumours than for thinner tumours.


Baade, P. D., Olsen, C. M. & Whiteman, D. C. (20 October 2014). More People Die from Thin Melanomas (≤1 mm) than from Thick Melanomas (>4 mm) in Queensland, Australia. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Vol. 135. Issue 4. P 1190–1193. DOI:

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