Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Experts estimate around 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. However, most skin cancers are curable when diagnosed and treated early.

There are different types of skin cancer. The most common types are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and melanoma. BCC and SCC are nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Rare types include dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, and Kaposi sarcoma.

This article looks at the rate of skin cancer, who gets skin cancer, and other key statistics.

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The American Academy of Dermatology reports that doctors diagnose approximately 9,500 cases of skin cancer in the United States every day. Most of these are nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSCs).

Melanoma only accounts for around 1% of skin cancers but causes most skin cancer-related deaths.

The American Cancer Society estimates that doctors will diagnose around 97,610 new cases of melanoma in 2023 — approximately 58,120 cases in males and 39,490 cases in females.

The organization projects that around 7,990 people will die of melanoma in 2023 — about 5,420 males and 2,570 females.

NMSCs, such as basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), are much more common than melanoma. Doctors diagnose around 5.4 million cases of NMSCs every year in the United States, states the American Cancer Society.

Of these cases, BCC is more common. Around 8 out of 10 NMSCs are BCCs. SCCs occur less often.

Generally, skin cancer is highly treatable and has a very good outlook if doctors diagnose and treat it early. Doctors can cure early stage melanoma with surgery.

Additionally, deaths from BCCs and SCCs are uncommon. Doctors can cure almost all cases of these cancers if they find them early.

The American Cancer Society states that these cancers cause around 2,000 deaths each year in the United States, and that this figure has been dropping in recent years.

Other types

Aside from melanoma, BCC, and SCC, there are other, less common types of skin cancer.

The following table looks at the rates of these cancers.

Skin cancer type How common is it?
dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP)rare; causes around 0.8–4.5 cases per 1 million people per year in the U.S.
Merkel cell carcinomauncommon; doctors diagnose around 2,000 cases per year in the U.S.
cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL)rare; researchers identified around 14,942 new cases from 2000–2018 in the U.S.
Kaposi sarcomarare; affects 0.5 per 100,000 males per year and 0.3 per 100,000 females per year globally

The risk of developing melanoma is much higher in people with lighter skin tones than in people with darker skin tones: Melanoma is over 20 times more common in white people than in Black people.

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • 1 in 38 white people will develop melanoma
  • 1 in 167 Hispanic people will develop melanoma
  • 1 in 1,000 Black people will develop melanoma

Despite being much less likely to develop melanoma than white people, Black people usually present to their doctors with more advanced cases of the disease.

This may be because the early signs of melanoma are less obvious in darker skin tones.

Because of later diagnoses, Black people tend to have worse outcomes in regard to skin cancer. To improve outcomes, people can have regular skin checkups and familiarize themselves with the symptoms of skin cancer, no matter what their skin color is.

Additionally, the risk of developing skin cancer, including NMSCs, is higher in white people who have:

  • blonde or ginger hair
  • blue or green eyes
  • skin that burns easily

Generally, males get melanoma more often than females in the United States, but this also depends on age. In people aged 50 years and younger, the risk is higher in females. After 50 years, the risk increases for males.

BCC and SCC are also more common in males and older adults.

Experts do not know for sure why males get NMSCs more often than females, but it is likely due to increased sun exposure.

Having a family history of melanoma, such as having a parent or sibling who has had melanoma, also increases the risk of developing it.

Learn more

Learn more about skin cancer:

People can change some risk factors for skin cancer to reduce their risk. These include:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure: Exposure to UV rays from the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps is a major risk factor for melanoma. Avoiding the sun and wearing sunscreen can help prevent UV rays from reaching the skin.
  • Smoking: People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing SCC, especially on the lips. However, smoking is not a known risk factor for BCC or melanoma.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Having exposure to a lot of arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer. Arsenic is a chemical element that industry workers use to make pesticides. It may also be present in well water.

A person can take steps to prevent skin cancer and reduce their risk of developing it.

These include:

  • Wearing sunscreen: Wearing a high factor sunscreen is especially important for people with lighter skin and lighter hair. A person can also wear a hat and cover their body in long sleeves and pants as often as possible.
  • Keeping out of the sun: A person can avoid the sun at its hottest, around the middle of the day. Staying inside or keeping in the shade can help reduce UV ray exposure.
  • Avoid using tanning beds and sunlamps: These machines give off harmful UV rays that can damage the skin and contribute to skin cancer. Experts have linked them to an increased risk of melanoma.

A person can also take steps to protect children from harmful UV rays and teach them how to stay safe in the sun.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about skin cancer and its prevalence.

At what age does skin cancer typically occur?

The average age for receiving a melanoma diagnosis is 65 years. However, people aged 30 years and under can also get melanoma.

Melanoma is actually one of the most common cancers in young adults, particularly in young women.

It is difficult to know the average age of NMSC diagnoses. It is not as well documented as melanoma.

Who is most likely to get skin cancer?

People with lighter skin, red or blonde hair, light eyes, freckles, and skin that burns easily are most likely to get skin cancer. Having a family history of skin cancer and being male can also increase this risk.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is more common than melanoma, but melanoma causes the most skin cancer-related deaths.

However, both NMSCs and melanomas are easily treatable when they are detected and treated early. Doctors can cure almost all cases NMSCs cancers with early detection.

Because of this, skin cancers tend to have a very good outlook.