How serious is skin cancer in the United States?

8 min read
How serious is skin cancer in the United States?
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Unfortunately, skin cancer in the US is very serious. The following statistics highlight the frequency and severity of skin cancer in the US.

Sadly, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Close to 10,000 people per day are diagnosed with skin cancer in the USA, which is more than all other cancers combined.

This results in more than 2 Americans dying of skin cancer every hour. This equates to more than 20,000 people per year dying of skin cancer in the United States.

The health consequences of being diagnosed with skin cancer do vary depending on the type of skin cancer you have been diagnosed with and how advanced it is when it is detected.


Melanoma is far less common than non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma (also referred to as BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (also referred to as SCC), but the seriousness of being diagnosed with melanoma is many levels higher in terms of 5-year survival rates. report that melanoma accounts for 1 percent of all skin cancers diagnosed in the United States but causes a significant proportion of the deaths resulting from skin cancer. They estimate that over 7,000 people in the US will die of melanoma in 2021.

For early-stage “thin" melanoma the 5-year survival rate is around 99%. A thin melanoma is defined as a lesion of less than 1mm maximal thickness. If the melanoma is thicker than 1mm, the survival rate drops to 80%. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes the 5-year survival rate falls to 66% and if the cancer has spread to other organs the survival rate drops to around 27%. highlights that being diagnosed with melanoma is 20 times more likely in Americans who identify as having white skin versus African Americans, but the 5-year survival rate for African Americans is materially worse (67% versus 89% overall).

People of color often get melanomas on non-exposed areas of their bodies with less skin pigmentation. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that around 70% of cancerous tumors for people of color arise on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and under fingernails and toenails.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma & Squamous Cell Carcinoma

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, chances are it is a BCC as they account for around 8 out of 10 skin cancers. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 4m cases of BCC are diagnosed in the USA each year.

The vast majority of BCCs are treated and resolved with a small incision of the skin. Some more invasive BCCs involve more significant surgery and may result in some physical disfigurement. if you have had a BCC and had it removed, there is around a 50% chance that the BCC comes back in the same location which is known as a recurrent BCC.

You can’t be too dismissive of BCCs. Whilst the proportion of BCCs resulting in death is low, because they are so common, they still result in a tragic number of fatalities. Around 3,000 people die of BCC-related skin cancer in the USA every year.

SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer (around 1 million Americans will be diagnosed with an SCC per year). but is the deadliest as it results in around 15,000 deaths per annum.

Melanoma gets a lot of headlines because a higher proportion of people who have been diagnosed pass away from the condition, but SCC-related skin cancer results in more than double the number of melanoma-related deaths in the United States.

What can you do to reduce your chances of being diagnosed with skin cancer?

Around 90% of skin cancers are due to sun overexposure, which means that skin cancer is highly preventable. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to lead a sun smart life. This involves making smart choices about when you go outside (when UV levels are lower), seeking shade when outside, wearing UPF 50+ sun protective clothing, wearing a UPF 50+ wide brim sun hat, and UV protective sunglasses. Poor choices would include using a tanning bed or sunbathing with your skin directly exposed to UV radiation.

The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) highlights that on average a person's chances of being diagnosed with melanoma more than doubles if they have experienced more than 5 sunburns in their lifetime, but only one blistering sunburn in childhood can doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Sun exposure and its effects are cumulative, so it's never too late to lead a sun-smart life. 53% of sun exposure in a lifetime occurs after the age of 40 according to the SCF.

18 States in the US have banned the use of tanning beds for people under the age of 18. People who have used tanning beds are at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetime.

Early detection is also critical as the survival rate for early-stage skin cancers is materially higher. This means regularly checking your own skin and going to see a doctor who specializes in skin or a dermatologist at least once a year.

At Solbari, we encourage all individuals to lead a healthy outdoors lifestyle but remind them that it is essential to protect your skin and check it regularly.

Solbari offers a range of UPF50+ sun protective clothing, sun hats, UV arm sleeves, sun umbrellas and sun protective driving gloves. All Solbari fabrics have been independently tested and rated UPF 50+ by the Australian Government. Solbari has loyal customers in over 90 countries.

You can find out more about Solbari's sun protective range by clicking the blue links below:
Women UPF 50+
Men UPF 50+
Sun hats UPF 50+
Accessories UPF 50+ 
SPF 50+ Sunscreen

Content Disclaimer: This website pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects. All content and media on the Solbari website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should seek professional advice.

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