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CDC Report: U.S. Skin Cancer Costs Rise in 2002–2011

Nearly 5 million people treated each year

The costs associated with skin cancer increased five times faster than those of treatments for other cancers between 2002 and 2011, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new findings were published online November 10 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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

Skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., is a major and growing public health problem, according to the CDC. The number of skin cancer cases has been increasing, but little was known prior to this study about the costs of treating the disease.

“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,” said lead author Gery Guy, PhD, of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “This also underscores the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts.”

The report studied skin cancer data in adults between 2002 and 2011 using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The researchers created two 5-year periods of data ––2002–2006 and 2007–2011 –– to allow a comparison over time and to improve the precision of the estimates. They found that the average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer increased from 3.4 million in 2002–2006 to 4.9 million in 2007–2011.

Nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer every year in the U.S., the CDC says. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

In the CDC’s view, people should take steps to protect themselves from UV exposure that could lead to skin cancer by protecting their skin from the sun and by avoiding indoor tanning. The agency recommends the following options:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers the arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

Sources: CDC; November 10, 2014; and AJPM; November 10, 2014.

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