Most Americans unaware of potentially life-threatening skin cancer

Doctor with stethoscope
Valley News - Health

NEW YORK – A staggering 74% of Americans are not familiar with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma – a type of skin cancer that is also the second most common type of cancer in the U.S. – according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Skin Cancer Foundation and in coordination with Regeneron and Sanofi.

CSCC is more common than breast, lung and prostate cancer combined and is estimated to cause more deaths than melanoma. Yet despite these statistics, the survey found a surprising lack of awareness and understanding of CSCC among a majority of Americans.

“During the summer months, skin cancer conversations are largely focused on prevention. Prevention is critical. At the same time, 1 million cases of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2019 alone.

So discussions on skin cancer identification and treatment are equally as important,” said Skin Cancer Foundation President Deborah S. Sarnoff, M.D. “Although CSCC is far more common than melanoma, these survey findings reveal that CSCC is virtually unknown to most Americans, and most have significant misconceptions of how dangerous it can be if it progresses. This large gap in knowledge highlights the urgent need to increase public awareness of CSCC, including understanding of the seriousness of advanced cases.”

“Advanced” is a broad term for CSCC that may have spread extensively or have resisted multiple treatments and recurred. An estimated 40,000 people in the U.S. each year learn they have CSCC that has advanced to the point that it may be very challenging to treat.

The findings of the survey, which was fielded by The Harris Poll in May 2019 and surveyed more than 2,000 adults across the country, are striking:

● 42%t of Americans have never heard of CSCC. In contrast, only 11%t of Americans say they have never heard of melanoma.

● Only 3% of people correctly identified CSCC as one of the three most common types of cancer in the U.S.

● More than half of Americans (54%) falsely believe melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the U.S. 2 In actuality, CSCC is five times more prevalent than melanoma (and basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer).

● 72% of Americans don’t understand that non-melanoma skin cancers such as CSCC can spread and become life-threatening.

● A majority of Americans (58%) know advanced melanoma can be life-threatening, yet only 28% think the same about advanced CSCC. Many people at higher risk for developing CSCC are not familiar with it:

● 40% of people living in the southern U.S. have never even heard of CSCC, but they are more likely to develop it than those living in northern states.

● Only 26% of men are familiar with CSCC, though they are three times as likely as women to develop it.

● CSCC is more common in people 65 years and older.10 Yet only 35% of people in this age group are familiar with CSCC, although they are more familiar than their younger peers.

For more information on the survey and online resources on CSCC, visit