Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

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Although melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, other types of skin cancers are also important health problems. Non-melanoma skin cancers are very common, and they contribute substantially to health care costs. Fortunately, though, most non-melanoma skin cancers can be treated successfully if they are detected early.

Here are some facts and statistics about skin cancers other than melanoma:

More than one million cases of the most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are diagnosed each year in the United States.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in 2004, it cost $1.5 billion to treat non-melanoma skin cancers in the United States.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. About 70 to 80% of skin cancers in men and 80 to 90% of skin cancers in women are of this type. These cancers usually develop on areas of the skin exposed to the sun.

After treatment, basal cell carcinomas can recur at the same site. Also, people who have had a basal cell carcinoma in one location can develop cancers on other areas of their skin. Between 35 and 50% of patients who develop a basal cell carcinoma will have another skin cancer within five years. It is important for anyone who has had a basal cell carcinoma to have their skin examined regularly, so that new problems can be detected promptly.

Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common type of skin cancer. About 10 to 30% of all skin cancers are of this type. Like basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas usually appear on areas of the body exposed to the sun. They can also develop in scars or skin ulcers on any part of the body.

Besides basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, there are several other types of non-melanoma skin cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma, cutaneous lymphoma, skin adnexal tumors, various types of sarcomas other than Kaposi sarcoma, and Merkel cell carcinoma. However, these cancers are rare, accounting for less than 1% of all non-melanoma skin cancers.

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