Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be 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, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer?

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

In 2012, it was estimated that 5.4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma were diagnosed in the United States among 3.3 million people. Some people are diagnosed with more than 1 skin cancer. The number of non-melanoma skin cancers has been growing for several years. This is 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.

In the United States, the rate of non-melanoma skin cancer deaths from these skin cancers have been declining in recent years. It is estimated that 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. It is estimated that 7,990 people will die from melanoma in the United States in 2023. For other, less common types of skin cancer, 4,480 people are estimated to die in 2023.

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. Percent means how many out of 100. Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease than women.

What is the survival rate for non-melanoma skin cancer?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from non-melanoma skin cancer. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with non-melanoma skin cancer are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with non-melanoma skin cancer are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

Because non-melanoma skin cancer can often be cured, there is very little information on survival rates for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.  

The 5-year relative survival rate for Merkel cell cancer is 65%.

The survival rates for Merkel cell cancer vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works.

If Merkel cell cancer is found early, before it has spread from where it started, the 5-year relative survival rate is 75%. If the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year relative survival rate is 61%. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. If the cancer has spread to other, distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 24%.

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for non-melanoma skin cancer every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how non-melanoma skin cancer is diagnosed or treated from the last 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 2023, the ACS website, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer website. (All sources accessed March 2023.)

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers a drawing of the structures and layers that make up the skin. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.