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UK Skin Cancer Rates Higher than Previous Estimates

SKIN CANCER data from a newly established UK database have shown that skin cancer rates in the UK are much higher than previously thought. With the revelation of these important data, researchers and policy makers will be able to evaluate prevention, screening, and treatment strategies more effectively, leading to improvements in skin cancer patient care.

As part of a collaboration between experts from the Queen Mary University of London, London, UK and Public Health England (PHE), this population-based nationwide dataset was created, aided by the introduction of nationalised and automated cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) registration in England and funding from the British Association of Dermatologists. This database ensures accurate reporting of rates of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and cSCC across the UK, which are the three most common types of skin cancer, presenting a significant area for further research. “Due to their frequency, the healthcare burden of squamous cell carcinoma is substantial, with high-risk patients requiring at least 2–5 years clinical follow-up after treatment and patients often developing multiple tumours,” commented Prof Irene Leigh, Queen Mary University of London.

Analysis of the data showed that there are >45,000 cSCC cases every year in England, equating to 350% more cases than previously estimated; risk factors for cSCC included older age, male sex, Caucasian race, and lower socioeconomic deprivation. Data from the end of 2016 showed that there were 13,453 deaths from all causes among the 76,977 patients diagnosed with cSCC for the first time in 2013–2015. The team also analysed the database to investigate the rate of metastasis of cSCC and showed that there were 1,566 newly diagnosed metastatic cSCC patients between 2013 and 2015. A total of 85% of these metastatic cases were reported within 2 years of the patient’s initial skin cancer diagnosis and 3-year survival rates for these female and male patients were 29% and 46%, respectively. “With poor 3-year survival once cSCC has metastasised, earlier identification of these high-risk patients and improved treatment options are vital,” Prof Leigh suggested.

As the first dataset on the number of cSCC cases in England to be released from the UK skin cancer database, which is the largest database of its kind in the world, these data offer promising opportunities to enhance skin cancer management. Describing the database as “a real step forward,” Nina Goad, British Association of Dermatologists, concluded: “Previously, researchers and policy makers have been working on a puzzle without all the pieces. Now they know how many cases are being treatment every year, better decisions can be made about treatment, prevention, and screening.”