Health and Economic Burden of Skin Cancer Substantial and Increasing, Highlighting the Value of Prevention Efforts

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The average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer, both melanoma and nonmelanoma, in the United States increased from 3.4 million in 2002 to 2006 to 4.9 million in 2007 to 2011 (P < .001), according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“During this period, the average annual total cost for skin cancer increased from $3.6 billion to $8.1 billion (P = .001), representing an increase of 126.2%, while the average annual total cost for all other cancers increased by 25.1%,” reported Gery P. Guy Jr, PhD, MPH, and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The study used data on adults from the 2002 to 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to estimate the treated prevalence and treatment cost of nonmelanoma skin cancer, melanoma, and other cancer sites. “Individuals were classified as being treated for nonmelanoma skin cancer, melanoma, or other cancers if they had any ambulatory visits (office-based and hospital outpatient), inpatient stays, home health visits, or prescribed medication purchases associated with the corresponding” clinical classification software code, the authors explained. “Costs were defined as expenditures from all sources for health-care services reported in the survey, including out-of-pocket, private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and other miscellaneous sources.”

Prevention Efforts

Noting that skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, the authors stated: “These findings demonstrate that the health and economic burden of skin cancer treatment is substantial and increasing. Such findings highlight the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts, which may result in future savings to the health-care system.”

One primary prevention program the authors cited was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Sunwise Program, which teaches children and their caregivers how to protect themselves from the sun. The program “could avert nearly 11,000 skin cancer cases while saving $2 to $4 in medical care costs and lost productivity for each dollar invested in the program,” the authors asserted. “Reducing indoor tanning, which is associated with an increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer and melanoma, is also an important strategy for decreasing the burden of skin cancer,” the authors added. ■

Guy GP Jr, et al: Am J Prev Med. November 9, 2014 (early release online).




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