Research predicts non-melanoma skin cancer deaths will overtake melanoma deaths

Published 07th May 2024 by PB Admin

To mark Sun Awareness Week (6 to 12 May) the British Association of Dermatologists is urging the public to learn the signs of non-melanoma skin cancer, as recent research shows that non-melanoma skin cancer deaths are on track to overtake melanoma deaths in England and Scotland for the first time.

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is currently the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most NMSCs have a high survival rate in comparison to melanoma, and awareness of them is lower. However, recently published research suggests that based on current trends, the number of NMSC deaths will overtake melanoma deaths in years to come, through the sheer number of people they affect.

There are two types of NMSCs, basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. It is estimated that there are around 250,000 new cases every year, with basal cell carcinoma making up around 180,000 of these cases. While less common than basal cell carcinoma, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is more deadly.

Dermatology researchers looked at data from six countries with more than 1,000 skin cancer deaths annually and high-quality mortality data, including England and Scotland. In all these countries, deaths from melanoma reduced or remained static between 2010 and 2019, due to advances in melanoma care. In the same period, NMSC deaths increased.

If this trend continues, NMSC deaths will soon overtake melanoma in these countries, first in Scotland (2028), then in the US (2031), Australia (2033), and England (2038).

As an example, in England, over the last decade deaths attributed to NMSCs have increased by 42%, an increase which is higher than many other cancers.

Dr Chris Bower, clinical vice-president of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “A shift in how we view non-melanoma skin cancer is long overdue. While non-melanoma skin cancer does have a high survival rate, it is becoming so common that the number of people it kills each year is beginning to overtake more deadly cancers, including melanoma. We estimate that there are around a quarter of a million cases a year in the UK compared to under 17,000 melanoma cases. While awareness of melanoma skin cancer is still very important, we would urge people to educate themselves on the signs of non-melanoma skin cancer as well.

“Like melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers are often caused by excessive sun exposure. They are particularly common among older people and the increase in cases that we have seen in recent years is in part due to the ageing population in the UK.”

Dr Zoe Venables, dermatology consultant and clinical lead at the National Disease Registration Service, who led the research, said: “Huge leaps, particularly in the form of immunotherapies, have been made in how we treat melanoma skin cancer in the last decade. This research provides analysis of deaths from both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers in England, and we hope our findings will support future research and result in greater awareness of non-melanoma skin cancers to improve prevention and early detection.”

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 07th May 2024

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