Skin cancer treatment costs soar

November 21, 2014

Treating skin cancer is having a major impact on the US healthcare system. The costs associated with skin cancer increased 5 times as fast as treatments for other cancers between 2002 and 2011, according to a Centers for Disease Control study published November 9 online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Treating skin cancer is having a major impact on the US healthcare system. The costs associated with skin cancer increased 5 times as fast as treatments for other cancers between 2002 and 2011, according to a Centers for Disease Control study published November 9 online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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The average annual cost for skin cancer treatment increased 126% from $3.6 billion between 2002 and 2006 to $8.1 billion between 2007 and 2011. The average annual cost for treatment of all other cancers increased by 25% during the same time period.

The CDC also found that the average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer increased from 3.4 million between 2002 and 2006 to 4.9 million from 2007 through 2011. In fact, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer annually in the U.S.

“The findings raise the alarm that not only is skin cancer a growing problem in the United States, but the costs for treating it are skyrocketing relative to other cancers,” Gery Guy, Ph., lead author of the report, with the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “This also underscores the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts.”

The CDC found the potential for savings on skin cancer spending through prevention efforts. “Primary prevention efforts have been shown to reduce skin cancer incidence, mortality, and healthcare expenditures,” Guy wrote.

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For example, the authors estimate that the Sunwise Program, a health and environmental education program that teaches children and their caregivers how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun, could avert nearly 11,000 skin cancer cases. Plus, it could save between $2 and $4 in medical care costs and lost productivity for each dollar invested in the program. In Australia, for example, SunSmart was estimated to save 22,000 life years, while saving approximately $2 for every dollar invested.