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Cases of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer on the Rise

Surprisingly, experts don't know exactly how many Americans have nonmelanoma skin cancer. The condition is often not reported to cancer registries, and estimates are out of date. But a new study in the Archives of Dermatology provides an updated look at nonmelanoma skin cancer in this country. And it shows the cancer is rising at alarming rates.

Nonmelanoma Cancer at Epidemic Levels and Rising

Nonmelanoma skin cancer includes basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Both are rarely fatal. But they can cause disfiguration and spread to other tissues if left untreated. The study did not investigate melanoma, a rarer but much more deadly form of skin cancer.

The study's authors analyzed a Medicare database and national survey information to develop current estimates of the cancer. They found that more than 2 million Americans on Medicare were treated for nonmelanoma skin cancer in 2006, up from 1.2 million in 1992. This represents a 77 percent increase in nonmelanoma skin cancer treatment in less than 15 years. And researchers expect the trend to continue.

Sun Exposure Adds Up

The more time your skin is exposed to harmful rays of the sun, the greater your risk for nonmelanoma skin cancer. This is true even if your skin doesn't burn. Learn how to reduce your overall sun exposure as well as recognize the signs of cancer. Visit www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/skin