Skin Cancer Explained

10 skin cancer facts everyone needs to know

The latest skin cancer facts and stats to help you stay informed.
MoleMap Team
November 17, 2023
10 minutes

The lat­est report by the Glob­al Coali­tion for Melanoma Patient Advo­ca­cy and Eurome­lanoma shows that skin can­cer is increas­ing around the globe, with many der­ma­tol­o­gists already believ­ing that the dis­ease has reached ​“epi­dem­ic pro­por­tions”. Scar­i­ly, the report esti­mates that by 2040, near­ly half a mil­lion peo­ple world­wide will be diag­nosed with melanoma.

While these sta­tis­tics are stag­ger­ing, there is hope. When indi­vid­u­als are bet­ter informed about skin can­cer, its risk fac­tors and its treat­ment, the more like­ly they are to take ade­quate mea­sures for pre­ven­tion and ear­ly diag­no­sis. It cer­tain­ly pays to know as much about skin can­cer as pos­si­ble, espe­cial­ly giv­en that it is the most com­mon type of can­cer in Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

To help keep you informed about skin can­cer and melanoma, we’ve round­ed up the top 10 skin can­cer facts, includ­ing the lat­est stats from the Glob­al Coali­tion for Melanoma Patient Advo­ca­cy and Eurome­lanoma report.

skin cancer facts

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One per­son dies of skin can­cer every 4 minutes

Melanoma is the dead­liest form of skin can­cer. And over the last decade, annu­al cas­es of melanoma have risen by almost 50% to over 287,000 world­wide. This equates to over 60,000 melanoma-relat­ed deaths glob­al­ly each year.

When com­bined with the inci­dence and mor­tal­i­ty rates for non-melanoma skin can­cers, the fig­ures become even more shock­ing. Over one mil­lion non-melanoma skin can­cers are diag­nosed every year. And while these types of skin can­cer are con­sid­ered less dan­ger­ous, there were still 65,000 non-melanoma skin can­cer relat­ed deaths record­ed in 2020.

When com­bined, these two sets of har­row­ing stats trans­late to 1 per­son dying of skin can­cer every 4 minutes.

skin cancer facts

Deaths from melanoma are set to rise by 20% by 2025

Accord­ing to the report, the lat­est data from the World Health Organ­i­sa­tion (WHO) pre­dicts that by 2025, the num­ber of melanoma-relat­ed deaths will rise by 20%. Pro­jec­tions for deaths result­ing from melanoma over the next 20 years are even more sober­ing, pre­dict­ed to rise to 74% by 2040.

The sad part about these stats is that melanoma and oth­er skin can­cers can be effec­tive­ly pre­vent­ed by lim­it­ing your sun expo­sure and using sun pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and SPF 50 sun­screen every day. When caught ear­ly, skin can­cers can also be effec­tive­ly treat­ed. If a can­cer­ous mole is detect­ed ear­ly on, the chances of com­plete cure are as high as 95%. That’s why we recommend getting a professional mole check at least once a year at a specialised skin cancer clinic.

skin cancer facts

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Males vs females skin can­cer facts

Accord­ing to the report, men are 10% more like­ly to devel­op melanoma than women and 4% more like­ly to die from melanoma than women. But inter­est­ing­ly, men and women tend to devel­op melanoma in dif­fer­ent parts of the body. For men, melanoma is more like­ly to occur on the head, neck and tor­so, while women have a high­er inci­dence on their arms and legs.

skin cancer facts

skin cancer facts

Fair skin or dark skin: Who is more at risk of skin cancer?

It’s true that peo­ple with fair skin are more like­ly to devel­op skin can­cer. How­ev­er, this doesn’t mean that those with dark­er com­plex­ions aren’t at risk. In fact, stud­ies show that skin can­cers are often more fatal in those with dark skin. This is because they typ­i­cal­ly appear in less obvi­ous places and are diag­nosed at a more advanced stage, mak­ing treat­ment more difficult.

skin cancer facts

When it comes to melanoma sta­tis­tics, where you live makes a difference

The report also showed that peo­ple who live in coun­tries with a high Human Devel­op­ment Index (HDI) score (that is, coun­tries like Aus­tralia and New Zealand that score high­ly in three basic aspects of human devel­op­ment: health, knowl­edge and stan­dard of liv­ing) are more like­ly to be diag­nosed with melanoma. Mean­while, peo­ple in coun­tries with a low­er HDI score are more like­ly to die from it.

How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to note that underreport­ing in coun­tries with a low socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus means we do not have a per­fect­ly clear pic­ture of skin can­cer and melanoma rates. This means the inci­dence of skin can­cer diag­noses and deaths could be much high­er than what is reported.

skin cancer facts

Skin can­cer risks increase with age — but younger peo­ple aren’t in the clear

Melanoma and non-melanoma skin can­cer inci­dence rates are shown to increase with age. This is large­ly due to accu­mu­lat­ed sun expo­sure over a person’s life­time. But that doesn’t mean young peo­ple are immune — in fact, skin can­cer is extreme­ly com­mon in young people.

Skin can­cer is the lead­ing type of can­cer among men between the ages of 25 and 44 and the sec­ond most com­mon type of can­cer among women in this age group. The truth is that it doesn’t mat­ter how old or young you are. Skin can­cer can devel­op on any per­son at any age. It's important to note the role of Vitamin D in skin health and cancer prevention.

skin cancer facts

Young peo­ple are still not being sun smart

Since skin can­cer knows no age lim­it, these next stats are par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ry­ing. The report found that young peo­ple aged 15 to 19 years take the biggest risks when it comes to sun safe­ty and use the least pro­tec­tion in the sun. What’s worse is that this age group grew up sur­round­ed by sun safe mes­sag­ing, mean­ing they should have a high aware­ness about the dan­gers of the sun.

Even if young peo­ple revert to sun safe behav­iour as they grow old­er, the dam­age may have already been done. The report states that if a child or ado­les­cent has expe­ri­enced just one blis­ter­ing sun­burn in their youth, their risk of devel­op­ing melanoma in lat­er life doubles.

skin cancer facts young

skin cancer facts

Tanned skin is dan­ger­ous skin

One of the most dan­ger­ous skin can­cer facts high­light­ed by the report is that many peo­ple still believe that tanned skin is desirable:

  • 61% of peo­ple believe hav­ing tanned skin is attractive
  • 49% of peo­ple can­not imag­ine com­ing back from hol­i­days with­out being tanned

Yet, 92% of peo­ple know sun expo­sure can cause health prob­lems and 93% of peo­ple recog­nise that tan­ning accel­er­ates skin age­ing. The scary truth is that even if you don’t get sun­burn and your skin tans in the sun, harm­ful UV rays can still cause skin cell dam­age. Tan­ning is just a reac­tion which aims to achieve high­er pro­tec­tion for your skin cells in future.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we live in a time where being tanned is con­sid­ered​‘cool’ and desir­able — and it will take major social change to shift this per­cep­tion. But the bot­tom line is that pro­longed expo­sure to the sun puts you at high­er risk of devel­op­ing skin can­cer. So, what bet­ter rea­son to embrace the nat­ur­al, untanned appear­ance of your skin?

skin cancer facts

More moles mean a high­er skin can­cer risk

The more com­mon moles you have, the high­er your risk of devel­op­ing skin can­cer or melanoma. Accord­ing to the Can­cer Coun­cil, a meta-analy­sis of 46 stud­ies found that hav­ing between 101 – 120 com­mon moles presents a high­er risk for melanoma. In fact, the risk was almost sev­en times greater for those with such a high num­ber of moles than those with very few (10−15) moles.

skin cancer facts

Most of us aren’t check­ing our skin often enough

What’s espe­cial­ly con­cern­ing is that the mes­sage about reg­u­lar skin can­cer checks just isn’t get­ting through in most coun­tries. A skin can­cer pre­ven­tion study by Ipsos for La Roche-Posay showed that:

  • Only 11% of peo­ple world­wide have their moles checked by a der­ma­tol­o­gist at least once a year
  • Only 33% of peo­ple world­wide self-check their moles at least once a year — yet der­ma­tol­o­gists rec­om­mend self-check­­ing every month

Your skin can­cer reminder: Check ear­ly, check often

There’s no doubt that a lot of these stats and facts about skin can­cer are scary — but the good news is that both melanoma and non-melanoma skin can­cers can be eas­i­ly treat­ed when diag­nosed early.

The rec­om­men­da­tions are sim­ple: check your own skin every four weeks and get reg­u­lar pro­fes­sion­al skin check every year. And if you have a lot of moles or are at a high­er risk of devel­op­ing skin can­cer you can check your per­son­al risk lev­el with our quick quiz, our com­pre­hen­sive full body mole check will help you keep a close eye on your spots and mon­i­tor for any chances.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

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