Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.1-2
Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.3-4
It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.5-7
Research estimates that nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), affects more than 3 million Americans a year.5, 8
Research indicates that the overall incidence of BCC increased by 145% between 1976-1984 and 2000-2010, and the overall incidence of SCC increased 263% over that same period.9
Women had the greatest increase in incidence rates for both types of NMSC.9
More than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma.10
It is estimated that 196,060 new cases of melanoma, 95,710 noninvasive (in situ) and 100,350 invasive, will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020.6-7
Invasive melanoma is projected to be the fifth most common cancer for men (60,190 cases) and sixth most common cancer for women (40,160 cases) in 2020.6-7
Melanoma rates in the United States have been rising rapidly over the past 30 years — doubling from 1982 to 2011 — but trends within the past decade vary by age.1, 7
Melanoma incidence has begun to decline in adolescents and adults ages 30 and younger. By contrast, melanoma incidence increased among older age groups, with more pronounced increases in people ages 80 and older.45-46
Caucasians and men older than 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.6-7, 11
The annual incidence rate of melanoma in non-Hispanic Caucasians is 28 per 100,000, compared to 5 per 100,000 in Hispanics and 1 per 100,000 in African Americans.6
Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.
Skin cancer in patients with skin of color is often diagnosed in its later stages, when it’s more difficult to treat.12
Research has shown that patients with skin of color are less likely than Caucasian patients to survive melanoma.13
Twenty-four percent of melanoma cases in African American patients are diagnosed when the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, while 16% are diagnosed when the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and other organs.7
People with skin of color are prone to skin cancer in areas that aren’t commonly exposed to the sun, like the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the groin and the inside of the mouth. They also may develop melanoma under their nails.12
Before age 50, melanoma incidence rates are higher in women than in men; however, rates in men are twice as high by age 65 and almost three times as high by age 80.6
It is estimated that melanoma will affect 1 in 28 men and 1 in 41 women in their lifetime.7
Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in females age 15-29.14
Melanoma incidence is higher in females than in males in younger age groups, though incidence rates in younger age groups overall have shown declines in recent years.45-46
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly.6,17
The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 92%.6-7
The five-year survival rate for melanoma that spreads to nearby lymph nodes is 65%. The five-year survival rate for melanoma that spreads to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 25%.6-7
The vast majority of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.6
Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day. In 2020, it is estimated that 6,850 deaths will be attributed to melanoma — 4,610 men and 2,240 women.6-7
Research indicates that men diagnosed with melanoma between the ages of 15 and 39 were 55% more likely to die from melanoma than females diagnosed with melanoma in the same age group.18
Research indicates that men with melanoma generally have lower survival rates than women with melanoma, which experts estimate may be attributable to skin differences and disparate sun protection practices.47-48
Overall melanoma death rates drastically declined between 2013 and 2017, specifically by 7% annually in adults younger than 50 and by 5.7% annually in older adults. The older age group’s melanoma mortality rates had been increasing prior to 2013.6-7
People with SCC have a higher risk of death from any cause than the general population.19
An estimated 4,630 deaths from skin cancers other than melanoma and NMSC are expected to occur in the United States in 2020.6-7
Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form.6
The majority of melanoma cases are attributable to UV exposure.20-22
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.23
Research suggests that regular sunscreen use with an SPF of 15 or higher reduces melanoma risk.24-25
Higher melanoma rates among men may be due in part to lower rates of sun protection.1, 26
Sunburns during childhood or adolescence can increase the odds of developing melanoma later in life.27
Experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 increases one’s melanoma risk by 80% and nonmelanoma skin cancer risk by 68%.28
Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of all skin cancers, including melanoma, especially in women 45 and younger.29-30
Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.31
Risk factors for all types of skin cancer include skin that burns easily; blond or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure, including sunburns; tanning bed use; a weakened immune system; and a history of skin cancer.6
People with more than 50 moles, atypical moles or large moles are at an increased risk of developing melanoma, as are those as are sun-sensitive individuals (e.g., those who sunburn easily, or have natural blond or red hair) and those with a personal or family history of melanoma.6, 33
Melanoma survivors have an approximately nine-fold increased risk of developing another melanoma compared to the general population.34
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.35
Women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing breast and lung cancers.35
Caucasian individuals who have had more than one melanoma have an increased risk of developing both subsequent melanomas and other cancers, including those of the breast, prostate and thyroid.36
Prevention and detection
Because exposure to UV light is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, the American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to stay out of indoor tanning beds and protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Because severe sunburns during childhood and adolescence may increase one’s risk of melanoma, children should be especially protected from the sun.6
Skin cancer warning signs 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. If you notice any spots on your skin that are different from the others, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.
The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams to check for signs of skin cancer.
About half of melanomas are self-detected.37-41
A dermatologist can make individual recommendations as to how often a person needs a skin exam from a doctor based on individual 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 to check for new and changing moles.42
About 4.9 million U.S. adults were treated for skin cancer each year from 2007 to 2011, for an average annual treatment cost of $8.1 billion.2
This represents an increase over the period from 2002 to 2006, when about 3.4 million adults were treated for skin cancer each year, for an annual average treatment cost of $3.6 billion.2
The annual cost of treating nonmelanoma skin cancer in the U.S. is estimated at $4.8 billion, while the average annual cost of treating melanoma is estimated at $3.3 billion.2
Researchers estimate that there were nearly 34,000 U.S. emergency department visits related to sunburn in 2013, for an estimated total cost of $11.2 million.43
Related AAD resources
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2Guy GP, Machlin S, Ekwueme DU, Yabroff KR. Prevalence and costs of skin cancer treatment in the US, 2002–2006 and 2007–2011. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48:183–7.
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