Non-melanoma skin cancer

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Survival statistics for non-melanoma skin cancer

Most cancer registries do not collect information about non-melanoma skin cancers. These cancers are difficult to keep track of. The information often doesn’t get reported because non-melanoma skin cancer is usually diagnosed and treated easily in a doctor’s office.

In Canada, a few provinces do collect information on new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer. Canadian statistics for non-melanoma skin cancer, including survival statistics, are based on the information gathered by these provinces.

Survival statistics for non-melanoma skin cancer are general estimates and must be interpreted carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for non-melanoma skin cancer and what they mean to you.

Relative survival

Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

In Canada, a 5-year relative survival statistic is estimated for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which are the most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Survival for most non-melanoma skin cancers is excellent. The 5-year relative survival for BCC is 100%. This means that, on average, all of the people diagnosed with BCC are just as likely to live at least 5 years after their diagnosis as people in the general population. The 5-year relative survival for SCC is slightly less at 95%.

Factors that affect survival for non-melanoma skin cancer include the following:

  • Most non-melanoma skin cancers are low grade and grow slowly.
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer is often found and treated early, so the prognosis is very good.
  • There are many effective treatments available for non-melanoma skin cancer.
  • BCC, the most common type of skin cancer, rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
  • SCC often has a low risk of coming back after treatment.

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • where the cancer is located
  • the grade
  • the size of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment