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Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC) Outpaces Melanoma in Global Deaths, Study Finds


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Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: A Growing Concern

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Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) has emerged as a significant global health issue, surpassing melanoma in terms of fatalities, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University Hospital of Nice in France. This study utilized patient data collected by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization.

The Global Impact

In 2020, skin cancer caused 57,000 deaths worldwide. Surprisingly, NMSC accounted for even more fatalities, with 63,700 deaths. Although NMSC is generally considered less severe and rarely fatal, it is often excluded from national cancer registry reports on total cancer cases.

Understanding NMSC and Melanoma

NMSC and melanoma share similarities as both are closely linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation induces cancer-causing mutations that contribute to the development of both melanoma and NMSCs.

However, there are notable differences between the two. While UV radiation is a risk factor for both, NMSC is more associated with chronic exposure throughout a person’s lifetime. Consequently, tumors often appear on the face and head. In contrast, severe sunburns are strongly linked to melanoma, particularly on the torso.

Types of NMSCs

NMSCs primarily consist of two main types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Both types originate from a specific skin cell called keratinocytes, which are the main cells in the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. Mutations in keratinocytes can bypass the internal regulatory mechanisms that typically prevent uncontrolled cell division, leading to tumor formation.

In contrast, melanoma arises from cancer-promoting mutations in another type of skin cell called melanocytes.

Data Gaps and Regional Disparities

Experts have discovered that official statistics on NMSC cases, currently reported at 1.2 million per year compared to 325,000 cases of melanoma, are likely significant underestimations. This discrepancy arises from inconsistencies in data collection and reporting practices across countries.

These data gaps make it challenging to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the trends in NMSC cases and their potential fatality rates. Of particular concern, the study reveals that geographical location significantly affects one’s chances of surviving an NMSC diagnosis.

The Importance of Prevention

While the report sheds light on the alarming reality of NMSC, it emphasizes the importance of prevention. Efforts should focus on implementing measures to prevent the occurrence of these cancers in the first place.


This report, prepared by Professor Sarah Allinson from Lancaster University’s Department of Biomedicine and Life Sciences, highlights the rising prevalence of NMSC and its impact on global health.

Source: ScienceAlert

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