“Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer”. It’s a common claim and one which is undoubtedly true – non-melanoma skin cancers (or NMSCs) are seen far more frequently than any other form of cancer. Unfortunately, however, due to their frequency, statistics on the incidence of NMSCs (which include basal cell carcinomas, BCCs, and squamous cell carcinomas, SCCs, of the skin) are difficult to find and cross-reference.
Recognising this gap, a research group from the University of Nottingham established a literature review to try and establish what comparable published data could be found to determine the incidence of NMSCs. Whittling down some 3083 publications, the group identified 75 papers which provided suitable information, covering 38 countries from 1955-2007.
While you can review all of the group’s findings online (along with acknowledged possible issues with data), a few key findings are worthwhile highlighting:
- UK rates of BCC (when standardized for age) are 89 cases per 100,000 persons between 1996 and 2003, with higher rates in Scotland (97.5 cases per 100,000 persons).
- Pan European rates of BCC have been increasing at around 5.5% per year for the past 40 years, with the highest rates in Switzerland and Italy.
- Australia has the highest incidence of BCC in the world, with 884 cases per 100,000 persons in 2002; a rate which “appears to be reaching a plateau” after increasing since 1985
- SCC rates are markedly lower than BCC, but have been on the rise in most regions.
Echoing calls from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) (which issued guidance on NMSCs and other skin cancers in 2010), the authors conclude by highlighting the potential burden NMSCs may pose in future. A better understanding of the incidence of these cancers will certainly help in planning their prevention and treatment.
Lomas, A, Leonardi-Bee, J & Bath-Hextall, F (2012). “A systematic review of worldwide incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer.” British Journal of Dermatology 166:1069-1080. Available online.
“Wollaton Park Sunset” posted to Flickr.com by Duncan Harris (Duncan~) on February 5, 2012 < http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/4246379902/>