Most Americans Unaware of a Widespread and Potentially Life-Threatening Skin Cancer, According to Skin Cancer Foundation Survey

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) is the second most common cancer in the U.S., but three out of four Americans don’t know what it is1,2
CSCC causes more deaths than melanoma, but only 28 percent of Americans know it can be life-threatening in its advanced stages2,3

July 26, 2019 (New York) – A staggering 74 percent of Americans are not familiar with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) – 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.1,2 CSCC is more common than breast, lung and prostate cancer combined and is estimated to cause more deaths than melanoma.3,4 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, MD. “Although CSCC is far more common than melanoma, these survey findings reveal that CSCC is virtually unknown to most Americans, and most have signficant 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.3,5

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 percent of Americans have never heard of CSCC. In contrast, only 11 percent of Americans say they have never heard of melanoma.2
  • Only 3 percent of people correctly identified CSCC as one of the three most common types of cancer in the U.S.2
  • More than half of Americans (54 percent) falsely believe melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the US.2 In actuality, CSCC is five times more prevalent than melanoma (and basal cell carcinoma [BCC] is the most common type of skin cancer).3,6
  • 72 percent of Americans don’t understand that non-melanoma skin cancers such as CSCC can spread and become life-threatening.2
  • A majority of Americans (58 percent) know advanced melanoma can be life-threatening, yet only 28 percent think the same about advanced CSCC.2

Many people at higher risk for developing CSCC are not familiar with it:2

  • 40 percent 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.7
  • Only 26 percent of men are familiar with CSCC, though they are three times as likely as women to develop it.8,9
  • CSCC is more common in people 65 years and older.10 Yet only 35 percent 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


About the Survey
The CSCC Skin Cancer survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Skin Cancer Foundation and in coordination with Regeneron and Sanofi between May 2 to 22, 2019 among 2,010 adults ages 18 and older in the US. Raw data were weighted where necessary by age within gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, size of household, marital status, employment status, internet usage and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.

About CSCC
CSCC is the second most common type of skin cancer in the U.S., and incidence worldwide is rising.1,11 Although CSCC has a good prognosis when caught early, it can be difficult to treat when it becomes advanced. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 1 million cases of CSCC are diagnosed every year, or 115 cases every hour.12 Of these, approximately 40,000 cases will become advanced.3,5 An estimated 15,000 people die of CSCC in the U.S. every year, which is double the estimated deaths from melanoma.6,12

About The Skin Cancer Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the Foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit


  1. Howell JY, et al. Cancer, Squamous Cell, Skin. [Updated 2017 Oct 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2017 Jun.
  2. CSCC Misperceptions Survey. Conducted by Harris Poll for The Skin Cancer Foundation, May 2019.
  3. Mansouri B, Housewright C. The treatment of actinic keratoses—the rule rather than the exception. J Am Acad Dermatol2017; 153(11):1200. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3395.
  4. Cancer Facts and Figures 2019. American Cancer Society. Accessed June 9, 2019.
  5. What are basal and squamous cell skin cancers? American Cancer Society. Accessed June 9, 2019.
  6. Skin Cancer Facts and Figures. Skin Cancer Foundation
  7. Lomas A, et al. Br J Dermatol. 2012;166(5):1069-1080.
  8. Basal and Squamous Cell Cancer Risk Factors. Accessed June 11, 2019.
  9. Schmults CD, et al. J Cancer Manag. 2018; 11(1):e60846. doi: 10.5812/ijcm.60846.
  10. Garcovich, et al. Aging Dis. 2017 Oct;8(5):643–661.
  11. Stratigos, Alexander et al. Diagnosis and treatment of invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: European consensus-based interdisciplinary guideline. European Journal of Cancer, Vol 51(14);14, 1989-2007
  12. Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Skin Cancer Foundation.
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