The Most Common Form of Cancer

Skin Cancer
By Dr. Brian Feinstein

Many people are not aware that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million skin cancers are diagnosed annually.

Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer with one million cases diagnosed annually. Basal cell carcinomas are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. More than 250,000 cases are diagnosed each year, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two major forms of non-melanoma skin cancer. Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either skin cancer type at least once. In 2004, the total direct cost associated with the treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancers was more than $1 billion. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Up to 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun.

The incidence of many common cancers is falling, but the incidence of melanoma continues to rise significantly, at a rate faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers. Approximately 62,480 melanomas will be diagnosed this year, with nearly 8,420 resulting in death.

                      Incidence   Deaths
Men             34,950         5,400
Woman      27,350        3,020

Melanoma accounts for about three percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. One person dies of melanoma almost every hour (every 62 minutes). The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the epidermis, is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease. Melanoma is the sixth most common cancer for males and seventh most common for females. Women aged 39 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults 15-29 years old. About 65 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is a proven human carcinogen, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Frequent tanners using new highpressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure. Seventy one percent of tanning salon patrons are girls and women aged 16-29. First exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. The indoor tanning industry has an annual estimated revenue of $5 billion.

Asian American and African American melanoma patients have a greater tendency than Caucasians to present with advanced disease at time of diagnosis. While melanoma is uncommon in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it is frequently fatal for these populations. Melanomas in African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions. Skin cancer does not discriminate against age or ethnicity. When is the last time you had a skin cancer screening?

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation

Dr. Brian Feinstein is a Diplomat of the National Board and Double Board-Certified in Dermatology & Family Medicine. He served as Chief Resident for the Department of Dermatology and again as Chief Resident for the Department of Family Medicine. He has lectured nationally and published multiple articles in archived medical journals. He was awarded Resident of the Year for Dermatology and recipient of the prestigious Clinical Service Award from his graduating class. Specializing in Cosmetic and Surgical Dermatology, including skin cancer and laser surgery. Offering a full line of cosmetic services, such as Botox, Juvederm, Radiesse, BLU-U, and cosmetic laser procedures.