Incidence Estimate of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer (Keratinocyte Carcinomas) in the U.S. Population, 2012

JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Oct;151(10):1081-6. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.1187.


Importance: Understanding skin cancer incidence is critical for planning prevention and treatment strategies and allocating medical resources. However, owing to lack of national reporting and previously nonspecific diagnosis classification, accurate measurement of the US incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) has been difficult.

Objective: To estimate the incidence of NMSC (keratinocyte carcinomas) in the US population in 2012 and the incidence of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in the 2012 Medicare fee-for-service population.

Design, setting, and participants: This study analyzes US government administrative data including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Physicians Claims databases to calculate totals of skin cancer procedures performed for Medicare beneficiaries from 2006 through 2012 and related parameters. The population-based National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey database was used to estimate NMSC-related office visits for 2012. We combined these analyses to estimate totals of new skin cancer diagnoses and affected individuals in the overall US population.

Main outcomes and measures: Incidence of NMSC in the US population in 2012 and BCC and SCC in the 2012 Medicare fee-for-service population.

Results: The total number of procedures for skin cancer in the Medicare fee-for-service population increased by 13% from 2,048,517 in 2006 to 2,321,058 in 2012. The age-adjusted skin cancer procedure rate per 100,000 beneficiaries increased from 6075 in 2006 to 7320 in 2012. The number of procedures in Medicare beneficiaries specific for NMSC increased by 14% from 1,918,340 in 2006 to 2,191,100 in 2012. The number of persons with at least 1 procedure for NMSC increased by 14% (from 1,177,618 to 1,336,800) from 2006 through 2012. In the 2012 Medicare fee-for-service population, the age-adjusted procedure rate for BCC and SCC were 3280 and 3278 per 100,000 beneficiaries, respectively. The ratio of BCC to SCC treated in Medicare beneficiaries was 1.0. We estimate the total number of NMSCs in the US population in 2012 at 5,434,193 and the total number of persons in the United States treated for NMSC at 3,315,554.

Conclusions and relevance: This study is a thorough nationwide estimate of the incidence of NMSC and provides evidence of continued increases in numbers of skin cancer diagnoses and affected patients in the United States. This study also demonstrates equal incidence rates for BCC and SCC in the Medicare population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Keratinocytes / pathology*
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • United States / epidemiology