By far the most common skin cancers arise from keratinocytes, the epithelial cells of the outer skin layer. They occur as two main types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and collectively these are known as keratinocyte cancer (formerly ‘non-melanoma skin cancer’).
While BCCs are the most common skin cancers, they are also the least likely to spread to other parts of the body, though if untreated BCCs can invade tissues beneath the skin.
SCCs are less common but if untreated, invasive SCCs are likely to invade below the skin and spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Keratinocyte cancers impose a very large burden on the Australian population. More than 400,000 are diagnosed and treated each year at a cost of more than $1 billion – the highest treatment cost of any cancer.1, 2 They also cause considerable morbidity, and mortality (SCC). Each year in Australia, BCCs and SCCs lead to 85,000 hospital admissions (more than twice the number of admissions for each of bowel, breast or prostate cancers), and almost 600 people die each year from SCC.