Skin cancer

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Incidence rates
  • More than 3.5 million nonmelanoma skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed in the United States annually.1
    • It is estimated that there will be about 139,870 new cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, in 2014— 63,770 noninvasive (in situ) and 76,100 invasive (43,890 men and 32,210 women).2
  • Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.3,4
  • By 2015, it is estimated that one in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime.5
  • Melanoma incidence rates have been increasing for at least 30 years.2
    • From 2006 to 2010, the incidence rate of melanoma in Caucasians increased by 2.7 percent per year.2
  • Caucasians and men older than 50 are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.6  
    • The incidence in men ages 80 and older is three times higher than women of the same age.2
    • The lifetime risk of developing melanoma is 24 times higher among Caucasians than among African Americans.2
  • Before age 45, melanoma incidence rates are higher in women than in men, but by age 60, rates are twice as high in men than in women.2
    • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.7
    • Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than males in the same age group.8,9 
    • Melanoma in Caucasian women under the age of 44 has increased 6.1 percent annually, which may reflect recent trends in indoor tanning.6
  • While melanoma in children is extremely rare, from 1973 to 2009 the rate of melanoma increased by about 2 percent per year among Caucasian children from newborn to age 19 in the United States.11
  • A 2005 study found that basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are increasing in men and women under 40. In the study, basal cell carcinoma increased faster in young women than in young men.12 
Survival rates

  • Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common forms of skin cancer, but are easily treated if detected early.2
  • Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are highly curable if detected early and treated promptly.13
  • The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent.2
  • Five-year survival rates for regional and distant stage melanomas are 62 percent and 16 percent, respectively.2
Mortality rates
  • Approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.2  
  • On average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. In 2014, it is estimated that 9,710 deaths will be attributed to melanoma — 6,470 men and 3,240 women.2
    • According to a recent study, men diagnosed with melanoma between the ages of 15 - 39 were 55 percent more likely to die from melanoma than females diagnosed with melanoma in the same age group.14
    • From 2006-2010, the death rate in Caucasians under the age of 50 decreased by 2.6 percent in men and 2 percent in women each year.2
    • During the same period, death rates for Caucasian aged 50 and older have increased 1.1 percent in men and 0.2 percent in women.2
  • An estimated 3,270 deaths from other skin cancers (not including nonmelanoma skin cancers) will occur in the United States in 2014.2
  • The World Health Organization estimates that more than 65,000 people a year worldwide die from melanoma.15
Risk factors
  • The major risk factor for melanoma of the skin is exposure to ultraviolet light.2
    • Avoiding this risk factor alone could prevent more than 3 million cases of skin cancer every year.2
    • In 2010, new research found that daily sunscreen use cut the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in half.16   
  • Increasing intermittent sun exposure in childhood and during one’s lifetime is associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.17
  • Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma, especially in women aged 45 years or younger.18
    • In females 15-29 years old, the torso/trunk is the most common location for developing melanoma, which may be due to high-risk tanning behaviors.9,10
  • People with more than 50 moles, atypical moles, light skin, freckles, a history of sunburn, or a family history of melanoma are at an increased risk of developing melanoma.2,19
  • Melanoma survivors have an approximately nine-fold increased risk of developing another melanoma compared to the general population.20
  • Men and women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than people without a nonmelanoma skin cancer history.21
    • Women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing leukemia, breast, kidney, and lung cancers and men with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. 21
Prevention and detection
  • Because exposure to ultraviolet light is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers2, the American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to protect their skin by applying sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing.
  • Warning signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn't heal.2
  • The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform skin self-exams to check for signs of skin cancer and get a skin exam from a doctor. A dermatologist can make individual recommendations as to how often a person needs these exams based on risk factors, including skin type, history of sun exposure, and family history.
  • Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam by a board-certified dermatologist at least annually and perform regular self-exams for new and changing moles.22
  • In 2004, the total direct cost associated with the treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer was $1.5 billion in the United States.23
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, the estimated total direct cost associated with the treatment of melanoma in 2010 was $2.36 billion in the United States.24  
Learn more about skin cancer:
Dermatology A to Z: Basal cell carcinoma
Dermatology A to Z: Melanoma 
Dermatology A to Z: Squamous cell carcinoma
Skin cancer detection 
Skin cancer prevention 

1Rogers, HW, Weinstock, MA, Harris, AR, et al. Incidence estimate of nonmelanoma skin cancer in the United States, 2006. Arch Dermatol 2010; 146(3):283-287.
2American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2014.
3Stern RS. Prevalence of a history of skin cancer in 2007: results of an incidence-based model. Arch Dermatol. 2010 Mar;146(3):279-82.
4Robinson JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection, and Vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294: 1541-43.
5Rigel DS, Russak J, Friedman R. The evolution of melanoma diagnosis: 25 years beyond the ABCDs. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010 Sep-Oct;60(5):301-16.
6Little EG, Eide MJ. Update on the current state of melanoma incidence. Dermatol Clin. 2012:30(3):355-61.
7Melanoma of the Skin, Cancer Fact Sheets, National Cancer Institute, SEER database, 2007.
8Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2008, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,, based on November 2010 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, 2011. 
9Cancer Epidemiology in Older Adolescents & Young Adults. SEER AYA Monograph Pages 53-57. 2007.  
10Linos E, Swetter S, Cockburn MG, Colditz GA, Clarke CA. Increasing burden of melanoma in the United States. J Invest Derm. 8 January 2009 doi:10.1038/jid.2008.423  
11Wong JR, Harris JK, Rodriguez-Galindo C, et al. Incidence of Childhood and Adolescent Melanoma in the United States: 1973. Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 5 May 1, 2013; pp. 846 -854 doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2520.
12Christenson, LJ, Borrowman, TA, Vachon, CM, et al. Incidence of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas in a population younger than 40 years. JAMA 2005 Aug 10; 294(6): 681-90.
13Neville JA, Welch E, Leffell DJ. Management of nonmelanoma skin cancer in 2007. Nat Clin Pract Oncol 2007; 4(8):462-9.  
14Gamba CS, Clarke CA, Keegan TM, et al. Melanoma Survival Disadvantage in Young, Non-Hispanic White Males Compared With Females. JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(8):912-920. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.4408
15World Health Organization, Solar ultraviolet radiation:  Global burden of disease from solar ultraviolet radiation. Environmental Burden of Disease Series, N.13. 2006.
16Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up J Clin Oncol Jan 20, 2011:257-263; published online on December 6, 2010.
17Lin JS, Eder M, Weinmann S. Behavioral counseling to prevent skin cancer: asystematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med.2011 Feb 1;154(3):190-201. Review.
18Ting W, Schultz K, Cac NN, Peterson M, Walling HW. Tanning bed exposure increases the risk of malignant melanoma. Int J Dermatol. 2007 Dec;46(12):1253-7. 
19Gandini S, Sera F, Cattaruzza MS, Pasquini P, Picconi O, Boyle P, Melchi CF. Meta-analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma: II. Sun exposure. Eur J Cancer. 2005 Jan;41(1):45-60.
20Bradford PT, Freedman DM, Goldstein AM, Tucker MA. Increased risk of second primary cancers after a diagnosis of melanoma. Arch Dermatol. 2010 Mar;146(3):265-72.
21Song F, Qureshi AA, Giovannucci EL, et al. (2013) Risk of a Second Primary Cancer after Non-melanoma Skin Cancer in White Men and Women: A Prospective Cohort Study. PLoS Med 10(4): e1001433. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001433
22Berg A. Screening for skin cancer. US Preventive Services Task Force, 2007.
23Bickers DR, Lim HW, Margolis D et al. The burden of skin diseases: 2004 a joint project of the American Academy of Dermatology Association and the Society for Investigative Dermatology. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2006; 55: 490-500.
24"The Cost of Cancer." National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. 2011. (last accessed 26 Aug. 2011). 

Dermatology A to Z