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Survey Finds Majority of Americans Are Unfamiliar With Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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Nearly-three quarters of Americans are not familiar with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of cancer in the United States, according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Skin Cancer Foundation. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is more common than breast, lung, and prostate cancer combined, yet despite these statistics, the survey found a lack of awareness and understanding of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma 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 cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is far more common than melanoma, these survey findings reveal that cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma 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 cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, including understanding of the seriousness of advanced cases,” Dr. Sarnoff added.

Survey Findings

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, include:

  • About 42% of Americans have never heard of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma; in contrast, only 11% of Americans say they have never heard of melanoma.
  • Only 3% of people surveyed correctly identified cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma as one of the three most common types of cancer in the United States.
  • More than half of Americans (54%) falsely believe melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the United States. In actuality, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is five times more prevalent than melanoma (and basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer).
  • Approximately 72% of Americans don’t understand that nonmelanoma skin cancers such as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma can metastasize and become life-threatening.
  • A majority of Americans (58%) know advanced melanoma can be life-threatening, yet only 28% think the same about advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Many people at higher risk for developing cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma are not familiar with the disease.
  • About 40% of people living in the southern United States have never even heard of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, but they are more likely to develop it than those living in northern states, according to a report by Lomas et al in the British Journal of Dermatology.
  • Only 26% of men are familiar with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, though they are three times as likely as women to develop it, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society and a report by Kabir et al in the International Journal of Cancer Management.
  • Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is more common in people aged 65 years and older, according to a report by Garcovich et al in Aging and Disease, yet only 35% of people in this age group are familiar with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma—although they are more familiar with the disease than their younger peers.

For more information on the survey and online resources on cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, visit skincancer.org/csccsurvey.

Disclosure: The survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Skin Cancer Foundation and in coordination with Regeneron and Sanofi. For more information, visit blog.skincancer.org.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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