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Recurrence Rates and Risks by Skin Cancer Type

Recurrence Rates and Risks by Skin Cancer Type

After a diagnosis of skin cancer, a person’s risk of having another skin cancer – called a recurrence – is increased. The risks of recurrence vary by the type of skin cancer, and data from our 2018 Skin Cancer In America survey helps quantify these risks. In fact, 56% of survey respondents shared that they have had skin cancer more than once. Below, we’ve detailed number of recurrences for each type of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and dysplastic nevus syndrome.

Melanoma recurrence

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes, the cells in the skin that are responsible for the pigment, or color, of the skin. More than other types of skin cancer, melanoma is likely to grow deep into the skin and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. From our 2018 Skin Cancer In America survey, we learned that people with melanoma are the most likely to have had skin cancer only once.

Basal cell carcinoma recurrence

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer and develops in the top layer of the skin – the epidermis. While a third of survey respondents had only one instance of BCC, another 37% had experienced BCC four or more times.

Squamous cell carcinoma recurrence

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) develops in the flat cells of the epidermis and is uncommon in people younger than the age of 50.1 Forty-three percent of our survey respondents with SCC had experienced this type of skin cancer only once, but a quarter had experienced it twice and another quarter had experienced it four or more times.

Dysplastic nevus syndrome

Dysplastic nevus syndrome, also known as atypical mole syndrome, is not a cancer but is considered a precancerous condition. However, people who have five or more atypical moles have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.2 Fifty-four percent of respondents in the 2018 Skin Cancer In America survey who had been diagnosed with dysplastic nevus syndrome had only had one diagnosis of the condition, but 19% had four or more.

Treatment depends on the type of skin cancer

Each type of skin cancer is unique in its symptoms, the risk of metastasis (spreading to other areas of the body), and its risk of recurrence. Because of these differences, different types of skin cancer may have different treatment approaches, including surgery and non-surgical treatment like chemotherapy.

  1. Firnhaber JM. Diagnosis and treatment of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86:161-168.
  2. Perkins A, Duffy RL. Atypical moles: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91:762-767.

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