Is Skin Cancer Deadly?

Skin cancer can be fatal, but the chances of survival are good when the disease is detected and treated early. That said, the type of skin cancer matters as some are more aggressive than others. Cancers can be grouped into any of the following categories:

● Localized: This means the cancer has not spread from where it began.

● Regional: This means the cancer has spread from the skin where it began to nearby lymph nodes or tissues.

● Distant: Meaning the cancer has spread from the skin where it starts to distant areas of the body like the liver or lungs.

This article will cover different cancer types and their survival rates.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most commonly occurring of all cancers. It occurs due to damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation or sun exposure.

If BCC remains localized, there is a five-year survival rate of 100%. If it metastasizes, the outcomes are generally poor, with a median survival time between eight months and 3.5 years.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer and happens when exposure to UV radiation causes damage to your DNA.

As with BCC, the five-year survival rate is high without metastasis as it hovers close to 99%. However, metastasis brings it down the three-year survival period to roughly 29% in women and 46% in men.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive and rare form of skin cancer. Its tumors appear on areas of skin that are exposed to sun, but not in all instances.

Around one-third to one-half of individuals with MCC will experience metastasis most commonly to the lungs, liver, bones, and brain. However, the treatment options for MCC include radiation, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.


Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the cells known as melanocytes. It is characterized by its aggressiveness and can spread rapidly to other organs if not treated early.

When treated in the early stages, almost 99% of individuals with melanoma will experience remission. However, that figure quickly drops when there is a regional and distant spread.


A skin cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. However, survival statistics are based on everyone with a disease, regardless of their overall health, age, or other factors that could positively or negatively influence survival.

With early diagnosis and preventative measures, you can improve outcomes and odds of survival.