Urgent need to tackle non-melanoma skin cancer during COVID-19 pandemic, say experts

There is no escaping it, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of healthcare. Not least the impact on cancer detection, services and outcomes for patients. In the case of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), the most common cancer in the UK, the incidence rate was already increasing as we stepped unsuspectingly into the new decade. The number of new cases had risen by 166% since the early 1990s1  and estimates suggest there will be almost 400,000 NMSC cases per year in the UK by 2025; up from 325,617 in 2020.2

Then the pandemic took hold, impacting healthcare services in an unprecedented way. The short-term result – a reduction in skin cancer diagnoses of almost 69%3  and a reduction in NMSC patients treated per week by 24–47% through April and May alone4.  The long-term impact is yet to be fully realised. So how can the rising tide of NMSC truly be addressed as the healthcare system continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic?

To find answers to this important question, Sanofi Genzyme hosted a virtual roundtable bringing together 20 parliamentarians, skin cancer charities, professional bodies and healthcare professionals to discuss the key opportunities to optimise NMSC prevention and care, while navigating the challenges of the current environment.

The roundtable experts identified a number of opportunities for the UK government, Public Health England and Health Education England to take action. These include raising awareness of NMSC through a targeted sun safety awareness programme, funding national roll out of Skcin’s ‘Sun Safe Schools’ programme, increasing dermatology training for trainee healthcare professionals, increasing training for dermatology nurses on the psychological burden of NMSC on patients and restoring face to face dermatology consultations to pre-pandemic levels.

Chaired by Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on cancer, and joined by Professor Catherine Harwood, consultant dermatologist at Barts Health NHS Trust, Gill Nuttall, CEO of Melanoma UK, Diane Cannon, an NMSC patient and Marie Tudor, CEO of Skcin, the meeting also reflected on the challenging perception of NMSC as a ‘minor’ condition despite the considerable psychological and physical toll that diagnosis and management can have on patients.

Treatment options are available for NMSC including surgery, radiotherapy and systemic treatment. Yet NMSC is highly preventable, underscoring the critical importance of educating on risk factors and early detection to stem the rising incidence.5

The roundtable followed the June publication of Sanofi’s State of the Nation: Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer report and NMSC Risk Checker. The report presented a clear picture of the stark level of unmet need in NMSC care and the urgent action required from UK policymakers and service commissioners. The NMSC Risk Checker provides important information on NMSC, including the risk factors, how to spot the signs and how to prevent it.

Sanofi hopes that the recommendations from the State of the Nation report and the recent NMSC roundtable will drive the action needed to address these growing challenges and is committed to working with the NHS and the healthcare community to improve NMSC prevention, detection and care for the people who need it most.

For more detail on the topics and recommendations discussed during the roundtable, download the NMSC Roundtable Action Note by clicking below.

NSMC Roundtable Action Note

N.B: This featured article has been produced by Sanofi Genzyme

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Last page update February 2021


  1. Cancer Research UK, Non-melanoma skin cancer incidence statistics. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/ statistics-by-cancer-type/non-melanoma-skin-cancer/incidence. Accessed January 2021.
  2. Goon PKC, Greenberg DC, et al. Predicted cases of U.K. skin squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma in 2020 and 2025: horizon planning for National Health Service, dermatology and dermatopathology. British Journal of Dermatology. 2017;176:1351–1353.
  3. Andrew TW, Alrawi M, et al. Reduction in Skin Cancer Diagnoses in the UK during COVID‐19 Pandemic. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2020 August:10.1111/ced.14411. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7436874/. Accessed January 2021.
  4. Nolan GS, Dunne JA, et al. The effect of the COVID‐19 pandemic on skin cancer surgery in the United Kingdom: a national, multi‐centre, prospective cohort study and survey of Plastic Surgeons. Br J Surg. 2020 Sep 16. doi: 10.1002/bjs.12047. Online ahead of print.
  5. Skcin. Non Melanoma Skin Cancer. Available at: https://www.skcin.org/typesOfSkinCancer/NonMelanomaSkinCancers.htm?q=5#5. Accessed January 2021.