Germany is the first nation that implemented a nationwide skin cancer screening program in 2008. The aim is to study the effect of the program on skin cancer rates and to estimate the number needed to screen for an unselected and a hypothetical high-risk population in Germany. We used population-based data on skin cancer incidence (2000–2014), mortality, hospitalization and sick leave (2000–2015) from North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (18 million population). We calculated annual age-standardized rates per 100,000 person years and calculated the relative change of the rates (%) including 95% confidence intervals (95% CI). Between 2007 and 2014, the estimated annual percentage change (EAPC) of the age-standardized incidence rate of skin melanoma was 3.8% among men and women. These increases were accompanied by increases of the age-standardized mortality rates (EAPC men 3.2%, women 2.0%) and age-standardized sick leave rates (EAPC men 11.0%, women 6.1%). Hospitalization rates showed barely any change. All types of rates for nonmelanoma skin cancer showed marked increases. The number needed to screen for skin melanoma death would be 34,000 if the risk reduction due to screening would be 50%. In a hypothetical high-risk approach with 10% of the population at high risk, that is, a relative risk of melanoma death of 4.0, a skin melanoma mortality risk reduction of 50% among these people due to screening would result in a reduction of the skin melanoma mortality by 15% in the total population. However, this reduction would require a number needed to screen of 11,141. Seven years after the introduction of the skin cancer screening program, there is no discernible beneficial effect at population level. The estimated number needed to screen for skin melanoma in an unselected approach is high and a realistic high-risk approach is currently not feasible.
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Dr. Stang receives a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Science (BMBF), Grant Number 01ER1305. The epidemiological cancer registry is permanently funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and covers all operating costs of the epidemiological registry. The clinical cancer registry is permanently funded by the statutory and private health insurances and covers 90% of the operating costs of the clinical registry. The remaining 10% are covered by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Charity German Cancer Aid funded implementation costs of the complex systems and infrastructures to support the obligatory electronical transmission paths for clinical and epidemiological cancer registration.
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