Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is proving to be a more deadly threat globally than melanoma, the more severe form of skin cancer, according to a groundbreaking study unveiled at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology (EADV) Congress 2023. The research sheds light on the alarming prevalence and often underestimated fatality of NMSC, prompting a call for urgent awareness and intervention strategies.
Professor Thierry Passeron, the lead author of the study, emphasized the stark reality: "While NMSC might be less likely to be fatal than melanoma, its higher prevalence is striking. In 2020, NMSC accounted for 78% of all skin cancer cases, causing over 63,700 deaths globally. Melanoma, in comparison, resulted in approximately 57,000 fatalities during the same period. The significant disparity in incidence has led to a substantial overall impact, making NMSC a pressing public health concern."
The study revealed that NMSC often goes unreported in cancer registries, making it difficult to assess the true burden of the disease. Professor Passeron noted, "These figures might be underestimations. NMSC is frequently underreported, complicating our understanding of its actual impact."
Analyzing specific vulnerable groups, the research identified individuals working outdoors, organ transplant recipients, and those with the inherited sun sensitivity condition xeroderma pigmentosum as high-risk populations. Additionally, the study highlighted a high incidence of skin cancer in fair-skinned and elderly populations across several countries, including the USA, Germany, UK, France, Australia, and Italy. Alarmingly, even countries with predominantly dark-skinned populations were not immune, as evidenced by the 11,281 registered skin cancer-related deaths in Africa.
In 2020, there were nearly 1.2 million reported cases of NMSC worldwide, significantly surpassing the 324,635 cases of melanoma. Unlike melanoma, NMSC encompasses cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While it is less prone to spreading to other body parts and can be treated more easily, NMSC's high incidence demands urgent attention.
Professor Passeron emphasized the urgency of awareness campaigns targeting not only fair-skinned individuals but also those with darker skin tones, outdoor workers, the elderly, and immunosuppressed individuals. He highlighted the need for the involvement of healthcare practitioners like general practitioners (GPs) in early identification and management of skin cancers, suggesting that the success of certain countries, such as Australia, the UK, and Canada, might stem from their collaborative approach involving various healthcare professionals.
"Skin cancers are preventable and treatable. We must increase efforts to halt the progression of this disease as early as possible to save lives," concluded Professor Passeron, underscoring the critical importance of timely intervention and public awareness in combating this global health challenge.