In the second study, Dr. Robert Stern of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, developed a mathematical model to estimate the prevalence of non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States.
With about 13 million white non-Hispanic U.S. residents having been treated for at least one non-melanoma skin cancer at the beginning of 2007, that means non-melanoma skin cancers have struck five times as many people as breast or prostate cancer. More people have had non-melanoma skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the last 31 years, according to the study.
Most of those who had a non-melanoma skin cancer had more than one, with the average being 1.6, he noted.
"This is only going to get worse," said Dr. Suephy Chen, an associate professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Our population is aging. Those people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when there was not a big sun-protection message out there are now coming into their 50s and 60s and are starting to develop skin cancers."
While non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common, melanoma is a serious worry. Though melanoma accounts for less than 5 percent of all skin cancers, it was expected to lead to an estimated 8,650 deaths in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.
In a third paper in the same journal, researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute found survivors of one melanoma are about nine times as likely as the general population to develop a second melanoma.
Of nearly 90,000 patients who survived at least two months after an initial melanoma diagnosis between 1973 and 2006, about 12 percent developed one or more other primary cancers. One-fourth of those were additional melanomas, according to the study. Women with head and neck melanoma and patients younger than 30 had even higher increased risks of developing an
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