About Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is preventable!

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It is also one of the most preventable.

  • One in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer, 80-90% of which are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • Over 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year, more than 5,000 of which are melanoma, the mostly deadly form of skin cancer.
  • Canadians born in the 1990s have two to three times higher lifetime risk of getting skin cancer (1 in 6) than those born in the 1960s (1 in 20).
  • There are more new cases of skin cancer each year than the number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers COMBINED!

Skin cancer is caused by overexposure of the skin to UV radiation. The most common sources of UV radiation on the skin are the sun and artificial tanning beds. Though skin cancer is preventable and most often treatable, it remains the most common form of cancer.


Three Types of Skin Cancer

  • Actinic keratosis (AK), also known as solar keratosis, is a skin condition caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation (i.e. sunlight). Some experts believe that AK is the earliest form of SCC.
  • Basal cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form and accounts for 90% of all skin cancers. It starts in the basal cells at the bottom of the epidermis (outer skin layer) and is caused by long-term exposure to sunlight. It is the most easily treated.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type. It starts in the epidermis, eventually penetrating the underlying tissue if not treated. It is easily treated when found early, but in a small percentage of cases, this cancer spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body.
  • Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and is responsible for the most deaths. However, it can be cured if it is diagnosed and removed early. Melanoma can develop from a pre-existing mole that appeared normal but changes, or as an irregular appearing new spot.

Other Skin Cancer Facts

  • Melanoma is the third most common form of cancer in Canadian women between the ages of 15‐29.
  • From 1998 to 2007, rates increased by 1.4% per year in both men and women.
  • In 2012, 5,800 Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma and about 970 will die from the disease.
  • The estimated cost of all skin cancers in Canada in 2004 was:
    • $531,750,000, over half a billion dollars,
    • Of the $532 million, $66 million (12.4%) is associated with direct medical expenditures and $466 million (87.6%) with indirect costs (sickness, short and long term disability costs, and premature death),
    • The direct cost per melanoma case in 2004 was $6,215, estimated to increase to $7,136 by 2031 due to rising inpatient and outpatient hospital costs.

Sources: World Health Organization (WHO).2010: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs287/en/; Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada, Canadian Cancer Statistics 2009, Provincial/Territorial Cancer Registries, Toronto, Ontario: Canadian Cancer Society; Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca/wp-content/uploads/Economic-Burden-of-Skin-Cancer-in-Canada-Report-Final1.pdf