Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer each year. You will read also general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Because non-melanoma skin cancer/keratinocyte carcinoma is so common and often curable, statistics are estimated. This is because individual cases are not usually reported to cancer registries.

It is estimated that more than 3 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancers each year. That number has been growing for several years, likely due to earlier detection of the disease, increased sun exposure, and longer life spans. Basal cell carcinoma is far more common than squamous cell carcinoma. About 80% of non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma.

The rate of deaths from these skin cancers have been declining in recent years. About 2,000 people die from basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer each year. Older adults and people with a suppressed immune system have a higher risk of dying from these types of skin cancer. About 6,850 people die from melanoma each year. For other, less common types of skin cancer, about 4,630 people die every year.

Approximately 2,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Merkel cell cancer each year. This number has been rising rapidly the last few decades. A significant majority of people diagnosed with the disease are older than 70, and 90% of Merkel cell cancer diagnoses occur in white people. Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease than women.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100.The 5-year survival rate of people with Merkel cell cancer is 64%. If the cancer is found early, before it has spread from where it started, the 5-year survival rate is 78%. Lymph nodes are tiny, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. If the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 52%. If the cancer has spread to other, distant parts of the body, the survival rate is 19%.

It is important to remember that statistics for non-melanoma skin cancers are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States. Also, for some types of skin cancer, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, and the ACS website (January 2020).

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by non-melanoma skin cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.