Dermatologists in Europe have shown that non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) are the leading cause of death from skin cancer. More than three-quarters of all skin cancer cases in 2020 were NMSC—basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and they caused about 64,000 fatalities all over the world. About 57,000 persons each year were lost to melanoma. However, scientists feel that NMSCs are frequently ‘underreported,’ so the impact is likely far more significant.
Non-melanoma skin cancers can be more challenging to detect since they can exhibit waxy skin-colored lumps or patches of red scaly skin that at first glance may seem pretty harmless, in contrast to the more apparent melanomas, which often appear as moles of multi-shades of brown with uneven borders. One in five people in the United States and the United Kingdom will eventually acquire skin cancer.
According to dermatologist and research co-author Dr. Thierry Passeron of Nice University Hospital in France, NMSC is more common than melanoma skin cancer but has a much lower mortality rate.
People with light skin and older age were more likely to get skin cancer in this study from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, and Italy. However, as evidenced by the 11,281 skin cancer fatalities recorded in Africa, not even countries with a large percentage of people with darker features were immune to the disease’s mortality risk. Nearly 1.2 million cases of NMSC were recorded worldwide in 2020, but only 324,635 cases of melanoma were.
Non-melanoma skin cancers, which include the more common basal and squamous cell carcinoma, account for the vast majority of cases of this disease. NMSC has a lower risk of metastasis and is more amenable to treatment than melanoma.
When diagnosing melanoma, dermatologists look for the ABCDEs: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution. Moles with irregular borders are a common first sign of melanomas, the rarest but deadliest form of skin cancer that can spread to other body parts. On sun-exposed body areas, such as the hands, neck, arms, and legs, basal cell carcinoma generally manifests as a waxy lump or a small, smooth, shiny, or pale growth. If caught and treated early, there is a high cure rate (up to 98%) for squamous cell carcinoma.
Those with darker skin tones who may not think they are at increased risk should be included in sun safety education efforts if skin cancers are to be prevented and effectively treated.