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Cancers of the skin (most of which are basal and squamous cell skin cancers) are by far the most common of all types of cancer in the United States. According to one estimate, about 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the US (occurring in about 3.3 million people, as some people have more than one). About 8 out of 10 of these are basal cell cancers. Squamous cell cancers occur less often.
The number of these cancers has been increasing for many years. This is probably from a combination of better skin cancer detection, people getting more sun exposure, and people living longer.
Although basal and squamous cell skin cancers are common, deaths from these cancers are not. For the US, estimates have ranged from about 2,000 to about 8,000 people each year (mostly from squamous cell skin cancer).
Most people who die from these cancers are older and may not have seen a doctor until the cancer has already grown quite large. Other people more likely to die of these cancers include those whose immune system is suppressed, such as people who have had organ transplants or are being treated for autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
The exact number of people in the US who develop or die from basal and squamous cell skin cancers each year isn't known for sure. Unlike most other types of cancer, basal and squamous cell skin cancers are not reported to and tracked by cancer registries.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
American Cancer Society. Facts & Figures 2023. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2023.
Christensen SR, Wilson LD, Leffell DJ. Chapter 90: Cancer of the Skin. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.
Karia PS, Han J, Schmults CD. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: Estimated incidence of disease, nodal metastasis, and deaths from disease in the United States, 2012. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;68(6):957-966.
Lewis KG, Weinstock MA. Trends in nonmelanoma skin cancer mortality rates in the United States, 1969 through 2000. J Invest Dermatol. 2007;127:2323-2327.
Xu YG, Aylward JL, Swanson AM, et al. Chapter 67: Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.
Last Revised: October 31, 2023
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