State of the Nation: Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer report highlights need for urgent action to tackle the most common cancer in UK

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most common cancer in the UK today, yet you may not have heard of it.1

Over 152,000 new cases of NMSC are reported each year in the UK, that’s more than breast, prostate and lung cancers combined.2,3 But this cancer is largely preventable, by limiting exposure to UV rays.4 Protect people from the sun, reduce cases of NMSC – the message here seems clear. However, the prevalence continues to rise at an alarming rate and is expected to more than double in just 25 years.5 So what is happening here – why isn’t it being prevented?

Driven to find answers, Sanofi published the State the of the Nation report. With input from Sir Edward Leigh MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin, UK dermatologists and patient advocates, plus insights from a survey of 3,638 members of the UK public, the report revealed a number of staggering findings about the current NMSC environment.

Firstly, understanding of NMSC among the public is extremely low. Not only had 69% of adults not heard of this type of cancer, but 38% were unaware of the risk factors altogether.6 But why is this?

NMSC is often seen as a minor condition because it is largely treatable through surgery. While this is partly true, the physical and mental toll that surgery can take should not be underestimated.7 It can lead to long-term disfiguration and side-effects, like difficulty speaking, hearing, seeing and breathing.8 This can have a substantial impact on people’s self-esteem and can lead to feelings of isolation as they avoid social interactions due to concerns about their appearance.9,10

“I now have a four-inch scar across my face. I was worried what my little girls would think. I didn’t want them to be scared when mummy came home from surgery.”

The report also revealed a number of fundamental challenges at the healthcare system level, meaning the number of current NMSC cases are already difficult to manage. An under-reporting of NMSC cases, inefficiencies in the care pathway and a lack of clinical evidence have resulted in an environment where prioritisation of NMSC is difficult and the quality of patient care is inconsistent.11,12 With a shortage of consultant dermatologists on top of this – approximately 1 for every 80,500 people – resources are already stretched.13

As the population ages and COVID-19 places greater burden on the NHS, urgent action is needed across the system to reduce the additional impact of NMSC. With the launch of this report, Sanofi and Sir Edward Leigh MP have outlined a number of recommendations for UK policymakers. If implemented, they will help people to enjoy the sun safely, recognise symptoms early and ensure all NMSC patients are able to access the quality care they need to manage this life-changing condition.

"We hope that through the publication of this report, action on NMSC will be taken by policy makers and service commissioners across the UK. The scale and increasing burden of NMSC means that we can't afford to postpone these actions."

Sir Edward Leigh MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin

The full State of the Nation: Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer report, and the NMSC Rick Checker outlining NMSC risk factors, symptoms and prevention tips, can be downloaded below.

State of the Nation Report

NMSC Risk Checker


  1. National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, Non-melanoma skin cancer in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
  2. Cancer Research UK, Non-melanoma skin cancer incidence statistics. Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
  3. Cancer research UK, Cancer incidence for common cancers. Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
  4. NHS England, Skin cancer (non-melanoma): causes. Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
  5. Goon PKC 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. doi: 10.1111/bjd.15110.
  6. Sanofi data on file.
  7. Lee EH et al, Patient experiences and outcomes following facial skin cancer surgery: a qualitative study. Australas J Dermatol 2016;57(3):e100–e104. doi:10.1111/ajd.12323
  8. Rhee et al, Creation of a Quality of Life Instrument for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Patients, Laryngoscope. 2005 July; 115(7): 1178–1185. doi: 10.1097/01. MLG.0000166177.98414.5E
  9. NICE, Cemiplimab for treating metastatic or locally advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (TA592), 7 August 2019. Available at (Accessed July 2020)
  10. PHE, National Cancer Intelligence Network, The treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers in England. Available at: skin_cancer/ (Accessed July 2020)
  11. Venables et al, Nationwide Incidence of Metastatic Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma in England, JAMA Dermatology, 2019. Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
  12. National Cancer Intelligence Network, The Importance of Skin Cancer Registration, 2010, Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
  13.  All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin, The psychological and social impact of skin diseases on people’s lives (2013). Available at: (Accessed July 2020)

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