Understanding Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Can Your #SunRegrets Put You At Risk For Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?

Though people are usually more familiar with melanoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is actually the most common type of skin cancer.1 Approximately 90% of NMSCs are linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation2,3 – #SunRegrets.

What puts you at risk for nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC)?

Were you a sun worshiper: sunbathing for hours without sunscreen, or using a sunlamp or tanning bed? Maybe you had a blistering sunburn in the past that required medical attention. While most people know these behaviors can result in premature wrinkling and cosmetic issues, these can–more importantly–impact your skin health by increasing the risk of NMSC.4,5 And although NMSC is typically treatable, many people regret their sun exposure habits only after they’re diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer.4

What Are Your Sun Regrets?

Woman using baby oil


Baking in the sun doused in baby or tanning oil may have sounded like the perfect summer day in the past, but it’s not so great in retrospect. Those sun-kissed skin days may have caused more than just a nice tan. As baby oil doesn’t have any SPF, it didn’t help protect against UV rays.
Woman in Tanning Booth


Maintaining bronzed skin all year round used to mean weekly visits to the tanning salon. But now we know that indoor tanning beds produce radiation amounts similar to the sun and in some cases, may actually be stronger.6 In fact, more cases of skin cancer are due to tanning beds than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking worldwide.7
Woman in the sun


Sun worshiping might seem like the only way to get perfectly bronzed skin, but it can lead to some serious regrets. Spending any amount of time in the sun without proper sun protection can cause damage to your skin. Sunbathing for long periods of time can lead to sunburns, accelerated skin aging and even skin cancer.4,18

Sunburn on shoulder


We all know that we should be wearing sunscreen. But many of us don’t do it every day, even when we know we should. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sun damage to the skin’s DNA is cumulative, so even brief exposure without sun protection can add up over time.

Understanding the Signs of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

UV damage to the skin’s cells can lead to precancerous actinic keratosis (AK) or the two most common nonmelanoma skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Once the skin is exposed to UV rays, DNA mutations begin to accumulate in skin cells, generating multiple non-visible lesions beneath the skin’s surface. Over time, lesions can become visible on the surface of the skin and can progress into skin cancer.8 The good news is, when identified and caught early, NMSC is highly treatable.4

Progression: DNA Damage to Skin Cancer
Number One

Actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous skin growth that can, in some cases, turn into SCC if left untreated.11 It first appears as rough, scaly bumps on the skin.12 It is very common, affecting 40 million people each year.13

The bumps may be raised or thick and may itch or have a sore feeling. AKs are most commonly found on the face, scalp, ears, back of the hands or chest, but can also appear on other sun-exposed areas of the body.12

Number Two

Basal Cell Carcinoma

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, with 8 out of 10 skin cancers being BCC.14 BCCs are usually caused by exposure to UV radiation.2,3

BCCs often look like red patches, pearly bumps on the sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, chest and back. They can also look like open sores, pink growths or scar-like areas.15

Basal Cell
Number Three

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer – combined with BCC, these affect more than 3.3 million Americans each year14 – and are primarily caused by too much sun exposure.16

It typically appears as scaly red patches or firm red bumps or growths with raised edges and a lower center. SCC can also look like an open sore that doesn’t heal.17

Did You Know?

Scientists are researching how and if damage to the DNA of skin cells can be reversed or repaired. Currently, there are options to reduce the visual aspects of sun damage to the skin through topical treatments and procedures. Board-certified dermatologists may use and recommend retinoids, chemical peels, laser treatment and/or microdermabrasion.18

#SunRegrets Blog

Stay informed about your skin health and NMSC.
Skin Cancer Myths

Skin Cancer Myths

In this guide, we’ll debunk some of the most common skin cancer myths and give you information about how to protect yourself from this disease.

read more
  1. Basic information about skin cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/index.htm#:~:text=Basal%20and%20squamous%20cell%20carcinomas,Risk%20Factors%20for%20Skin%20Cancer%3F.  Accessed November 18, 2022.
  2. Pleasance E.D., Cheetham R.K., Stephens P.J. A comprehensive catalogue of somatic mutations from a human cancer genome. Nature. Jan 14, 2010;463(7278):191–196.
  3. Young Kim, Yu-Ying He. Ultraviolet radiation-induced non-melanoma skin cancer: Regulation of DNA damage repair and inflammation. Genes & Diseases. Sept 16, 2014; 1(2); 188-189.
  4. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2022. Accessed Feb. 23, 2023. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2022/2022-cancer-facts-and-figures.pdf 
  5. Wu S, Cho E, Li WQ, Weinstock MA, Han J, Qureshi AA. History of Severe Sunburn and Risk of Skin Cancer Among Women and Men in 2 Prospective Cohort Studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2016 May 1;183(9):824-33.
  6. Nilsen LT, Hannevik M, Veierød MB. Ultraviolet exposure from indoor tanning devices: a systematic review. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Apr;174(4):730-40..
  7. Wehner MR, Chren MM, Nameth D, Choudhry A, Gaskins M, Nead KT, Boscardin WJ, Linos E. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 Apr;150(4):390-400.
  8. Huang, A.H., Chien, A.L. Photoaging: a Review of Current Literature. Curr Derm Rep 9, 22–29 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13671-020-00288-0
  9. Xiang F, Lucas R, Hales S, Neale R. Incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer in relation to ambient UV radiation in white populations, 1978-2012: empirical relationships. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 Oct;150(10):1063-71.
  10. Huang A, Nguyen JK, Austin E, Mamalis A, Jagdeo J. Updates on Treatment Approaches for Cutaneous Field Cancerization. Curr Dermatol Rep. 2019 Sep;8(3):122-132.
  11. American Academy of Dermatology. Actinic Keratosis: Overview. Accessed Nov. 16, 2022. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/actinic-keratosis-overview 
  12. American Academy of Dermatology. What are the signs and symptoms of actinic keratosis? Accessed Feb. 23, 2022. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/actinic-keratosis-symptoms 
  13. Neugebauer R, Levandoski KA, Zhu Z, Sokil M, Chren MM, Friedman GD, Asgari MM. A real-world, community-based cohort study comparing the effectiveness of topical fluorouracil versus topical imiquimod for the treatment of actinic keratosis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018 Apr;78(4):710-71.
  14. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for basal and squamous cell cancers. Accessed Nov. 8, 2022. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
  15. American Academy of Dermatology. Skin Cancer Types: Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs and Symptoms. Accessed Feb. 23, 2022. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/bcc/symptoms 
  16. American Cancer Society. What are Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers. Accessed Nov. 9, 2022. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/about/what-is-basal-and-squamous-cell.html 
  17. American Academy of Dermatology. Skin Cancer Types: Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs and Symptoms https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/scc/symptoms 
  18. American Academy of Dermatology. How Dermatologists Treat Sun-Damaged Skin. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sun-damage-skin/wrinkles-sun-damage-can-be-treated.  Accessed 12/2/2022.