Skin Cancer in Canada


Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, with an estimated 6,800 cases of malignant melanoma and 78,300 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in 2015. An estimated 1,170 people died from melanoma in 2015. Skin cancer, including melanoma, is one of the most preventable types of cancer. The main risk factor is UV radiation from sun exposure and other sources, such as indoor tanning beds.

Solar UV radiation causes all major skin cancer types, including melanoma, the most fatal skin cancer (1). A 2015 report(2) released by Cancer Care Ontario and Public Health Ontario, shows that an estimated 2,090 to 2,990 cancer cases per year are from solar UV radiation exposure in Ontario, representing, on average, about 80 per cent of the province’s melanoma cases.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Ontario. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the main sub-types. Although only melanoma skin cancer is routinely reported in Ontario, estimates indicate that 35,000 Ontarians will be diagnosed with one of these forms of skin cancer in 2011, accounting for about 1/3 of all cancer diagnoses.

If current trends continue, there is expected to be a 72% increase in the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed between the periods of 2003 to 2007 and 2028 to 2032.


Canadians are not protecting themselves enough from UV radiation. National surveys over the past 2 decades show that Canadians have increased their time in the sun, but they haven’t been protecting themselves properly from the sun’s rays. In addition, more young women are using indoor tanning facilities than in the past.


The economic burden of this cancer – including both direct costs (e.g., treatment) and indirect costs (e.g., morbidity and premature mortality) – in Ontario is estimated to exceed $344 million in the year 2011 alone(2).


Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from other sources, such as tanning equipment. Reduced exposure to UV radiation would significantly impact the future burden of skin cancer and the associated human and economic costs.

  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 100D. A review of human carcinogens. Part D: Radiation. Lyon, FR: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2012.

  2. Insight on Cancer: Sun Exposure and Protective Behaviours in Ontario. An Ontario report based on the 2006 Second National Sun Survey available at

  3. H. Krueger & Associates Inc. The Economic Burden of Skin Cancer in Canada: Current and Projected. Final report. 2010 Feb. Contracted by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Available at

Copyright © 2021 ONTARIO SUN SAFETY WORKING GROUP. All rights reserved.