Increase in Diagnoses of Two Types of Skin Cancer

Two types of skin cancer appear to be on the rise. Researchers led by the Mayo Clinic have recently published their results that show an increase in diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma in recent years. The research team evaluated medical records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, which links medical records and research in Minnesota and Wisconsin.1,2

Incidence of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma on the rise

The researchers evaluated the medical data in three segments of time: 1976-1984, 1985-1992, and 2000-2010. In the most recent time frame, 2000-2010, squamous cell carcinoma diagnoses increased an incredible 263% and basal cell carcinoma diagnoses increased 145%.

The greatest increase in basal cell carcinomas was seen in women aged 30-49, and women aged 40-59 and 70-79 had the greatest increase in squamous cell carcinomas. There was also an increase in squamous cell carcinoma among men between the first and second time period, and a slight decline in the most recent time period. However, men over the age of 29 had an increase in basal cell carcinomas.1,2

The different types of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. Skin cancer can be categorized in four types:

  • Actinic keratoses, which are precancerous but may progress to squamous cell carcinomas
  • Basal cell carcinomas, which are the most common type of skin cancer
  • Squamous cell carcinomas, which are the second most common type of skin cancer
  • Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer and frequently develops in a mole or as a new dark spot on the skin3

Identifying basal cell carcinomas

Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) often occur in people with fair skin, although they can occur in people of every skin color. BCC may look like a flesh-colored, pearly bump or a pinkish patch of skin. They can occur after years of frequent exposure to the sun or tanning beds. Early diagnosis and treatment is important to minimize the chances of BCC spreading into surrounding tissue, nerves, or bone.3

Identifying squamous cell carcinomas

Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) can also develop in people of any skin color, but they most often occur in people with light skin. SCC may look like a firm, red bump, a scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then worsens. Again, early diagnosis and treatment is critical to prevent spreading and minimize the disfigurement that can occur if the cancer grows deep into the skin.3

The accumulation of skin damage

Natural and artificial sunlight give off of ultraviolet (UV) light that cause damage to the skin. This damage accumulates over time and is the major risk factor leading to skin cancer. Since damage to the skin builds up over time, even if your sun habits have changed recently, earlier damage can still be a factor, such as sunburns experienced in your youth.

The emergence of tanning beds occurred in the 1980s, and although their usage has slowed, the tanning bed industry still exists (some people are still using them), and as one researcher pointed out, beaches will never be empty. Because sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, doctors encourage the use of sunscreen every day, all year round on any exposed skin. UV rays can penetrate windows and clouds, so sunscreen is important even on gray, cloudy days or if you’re driving in a car.1,2

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