US Skin Cancer Costs Top $8 Billion Annually

Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH, Health economist CDC: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control’s Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch.Medical Interview with:
Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH, Health economist
CDC: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control’s Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch.

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Guy: Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and is a growing public health problem. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is responsible for more than 12,000 deaths each year and is diagnosed in over 70,000 people per year. The number of skin cancer cases continues to increase every year, however little is known about the economic burden of treatment. The purpose of our study was to examine trends in the number of people treated for skin cancer and the cost of treatment.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Guy: Each year in the United States, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, at a cost of $8.1 billion dollars. The costs associated with skin cancer treatment are not only rising, but they are increasing substantially more than for other cancers. 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 in costs of 126 percent while the average annual cost for treatment of all other cancers increased by 25 percent. The average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer increased from 3.4 million during 2002-2006 to 4.9 million in 2007-2011.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Guy: Most cases of cases of skin cancer, including melanoma, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet  (UV) light. Therefore many skin cancers could be prevented if people avoid UV exposure that could lead to skin cancer by protecting their skin from the sun and avoiding indoor ` tanning. Clinicians can play an important role in skin cancer prevention.  The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends behavioral counseling in clinical settings about minimizing UV  exposure to reduce skin cancer risk for fair-skinned individuals aged 10-24 years.

Patients are encouraged to follow the recommended steps for protecting their skin from UV rays:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Guy: While this study demonstrates the substantial costs of skin cancer treatment, it also highlights the potential for savings through prevention efforts. Skin cancer prevention efforts have been shown to reduce skin cancer incidence, mortality, and healthcare expenditures. Continued surveillance is needed to monitor the impact of skin cancer prevention efforts on the economic burden of skin cancer in the United States.


Prevalence and Costs of Skin Cancer Treatment in the U.S., 2002−2006 and 2007−2011
Guy, Gery P. et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Published Online: November 09, 2014