New Numbers on America's Most Common Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer incidence rates updated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The sun's rays may give you that healthy glow — but below the surface, there may be serious health risks.

A new study estimated that there are 2 million cases of basal cell carcinoma in the US each year. This study also identified the populations at the highest risk of developing the disease.

"One of the take-home messages from our study is that we wanted to help identify individuals that are at high risk for the disease so we could focus better efforts on future screening and prevention," said lead author Maryam M. Asgari, MD, of the Department of Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in an interview with JAMA Dermatology.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. BCC is caused when keratinocytes — the most common cells in the outermost layer of skin — are damaged by sun exposure. Because BCC is common and has a low death rate, it is not a typically reported cancer.

Dr. Asgari and team looked at data from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California database of patients from 1998 to 2012. About 147,000 patients were diagnosed with BCC during this time.

These numbers were used to estimate the current incidence in the US as 2 million cases per year, or 1 in every 150 people.

Dr. Asgari and team found that men had a 1.7 times higher risk for developing BCC than women. Risk was also found to go up with age — with the highest risk in those age 65 and older.

Researchers found that ethnicity also played a role in risk — with the highest risk of BCC in white patients.

"We did see basal carcinomas arising in people that were multiracial as well as Hispanic, black, and Asian, but those comprised less than 8 percent of our total numbers," Dr. Asgari said.

This study was published online June 3 in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

The National Cancer Institute funded this research.

Dr. Asgari received funding from Pfizer Inc. and 3 Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

Review Date: 
June 2, 2015
Last Updated:
June 3, 2015