News & Media

Press Release

May 7, 2024

Non-melanoma skin cancer deaths will overtake melanoma deaths, research predicts

To mark Sun Awareness Week (6 to 12 May) the British Association of Dermatologists is urging the public to learn the signs of non-melanoma skin cancer, as recent research shows that non-melanoma skin cancer deaths are on track to overtake melanoma deaths in England and Scotland for the first time.

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is currently the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most NMSCs have a high survival rate in comparison to melanoma, and awareness of them is lower. However, recently published research suggests that based on current trends, the number of NMSC deaths will overtake melanoma deaths in years to come, through the sheer number of people they affect.

There are two types of NMSCs, basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. It is estimated that there are around 250,000 new cases every year, with basal cell carcinoma making up around 180,000 of these cases. While less common than basal cell carcinoma, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is more deadly.

Dermatology researchers looked at data from 6 countries with more than 1,000 skin cancer deaths annually and high-quality mortality data, including England and Scotland. In all these countries, deaths from melanoma reduced or remained static between 2010 and 2019, due to advances in melanoma care. In the same period, NMSC deaths increased.

If this trend continues, NMSC deaths will soon overtake melanoma in these countries, first in Scotland (2028), then in the US (2031), Australia (2033), and England (2038).

As an example, in England, over the last decade deaths attributed to NMSCs have increased by 42%, an increase which is higher than many other cancers.

Dr Chris Bower, Clinical Vice-President of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “A shift in how we view non-melanoma skin cancer is long overdue. While non-melanoma skin cancer does have a high survival rate, it is becoming so common that the number of people it kills each year is beginning to overtake more deadly cancers, including melanoma. We estimate that there are around a quarter of a million cases a year in the UK compared to under 17,000 melanoma cases. While awareness of melanoma skin cancer is still very important, we would urge people to educate themselves on the signs of non-melanoma skin cancer as well.

“Like melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers are often caused by excessive sun exposure. They are particularly common among older people and the increase in cases that we have seen in recent years is in part due to the ageing population in the UK.”

Dr Zoe Venables, Dermatology consultant and clinical lead at the National Disease Registration Service, who led the research, said: “Huge leaps, particularly in the form of immunotherapies, have been made in how we treat melanoma skin cancer in the last decade. This research provides analysis of deaths from both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers in England, and we hope our findings will support future research and result in greater awareness of non-melanoma skin cancers to improve prevention and early detection.”

How to spot the signs of non-melanoma skin cancer

The best way to check for skin cancer is to carry out regular skin self-examinations, ideally once a month. Early detection can help to reduce the risk of developing a larger, more serious skin cancer that may need extensive surgery or treatment. The British Association of Dermatologists has created this useful guide to skin cancer, including tips on how to conduct a skin self-examination.

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC):

  • cSCC can appear as a red or skin-coloured scabbed or crusted lump or ulcer (broken skin) which can be sore or bleed.
  • They tend to grow relatively quickly over a few weeks or months.
  • They can appear on any part of the body but are common on sun-exposed sites like the face, scalp, neck, back of the hands and arms.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC):

  • BCCs can appear as a scabbed or crusted area which can be lumpy or make an ulcer (broken skin) which does not heal.
  • They are often painless although they can be itchy or bleed.
  • They tend to grow slowly over a few months or longer.
  • They can appear on any part of the body but are common on sun-exposed sites like the face, scalp, neck and upper back or chest.

For more information, check our pages on BCC and cSCC on our patient hub.

If in doubt, speak to your GP and get it checked out. Your GP can refer you to a dermatologist via the NHS.

Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their skin type – forming and keeping good habits when it comes to sun exposure (the main risk factor in NMSCs) is key. Wear clothes that will shield you from the sun, make use of shade between 11am and 3pm, and wear and regularly reapply SPF 30+ sunscreen.


Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact the media team:, 07769000415.

About Sun Awareness Week

This press release marks the start of the British Association of Dermatologists’ Sun Awareness Week 2024. Sun Awareness Week is the kick-off to our summer-long Sun Awareness campaign. We use this week to re-enforce the need for sun protection across the UK and inspire people to raise awareness themselves.

Sun Awareness Week 2024 will be from 6 May to 12 May. Our focus this year will be on raising awareness of non-melanoma skin cancer and best practices for people to check their skin for this very common type of skin cancer.

Find more information about sun protection advice from the BAD’s experts, here.

About the BAD

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) is the professional membership body for dermatologists in the UK. Founded in 1920, the BAD is a registered charity representing over 2,400 members, dedicated to medical education, professional practice and standards, and research in dermatology.

For further information about the charity, visit