Costs for Skin Cancer Increasing Faster Than for Other Cancers

Roxanne Nelson

November 10, 2014

The costs associated with skin cancer are "substantial," and in fact have increased five times as fast as treatments for other cancers from 2002 to 2011, say the authors of a new study.

They found that the average annual cost for treating skin cancer jumped from $3.6 billion during the period 2002-2006 to $8.1 billion for 2007-2011. This included treatment of both nonmelanoma cancers and melanoma, and represented a cost increase of 126%.

In comparison, the average annual cost for treating all other types of cancer rose by 25% during the same period (from $63.7 billion to $79.7 billion).

The study was published online November 9 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"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," commented lead author Gery Guy, PhD, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.

"This also underscores the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts," Dr Guy said in a statement.

The authors collected data from 2002-2011 using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) full-year consolidated files. The MEPS combines household-reported data on use and costs, and provider-reported data on costs.

Data from two 5-year periods, 2002-2006 and 2007-2011, were created to allow for a comparison over time and to improve the precision of the estimates.

The authors defined costs as expenditures from all sources for healthcare services reported in the survey, including out of pocket, private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and other miscellaneous sources.

The average annual number of adults who received treatment for any type of skin cancer grew from 3.4 to 4.9 million between 2002-2006 and 2007-2011 (P < .001). In comparison, the average number who were treated for all other cancer types increased from 7.8 to 10.3 million in that same period (P < .001).

In subgroup analyses, for those aged 65 years and older, there were increases in nonmelanoma cancers (P < .001) and melanoma (P < .001); for women aged 18 to 64 years, there were increases for melanoma (P = .006).

The average annual total treatment costs during the period 2007-2011 were $4.8 billion for nonmelanoma skin cancer and $3.3 billion for melanoma.

During the period 2007-2011, private health insurance paid for 43.4% of all skin cancer treatment costs, and Medicare paid for 41.1%. For cancers at other sites, private health insurance was responsible for roughly the same percentage of cost (45.2%), and Medicare paid for 36.1%.

The authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Am J Prevent Med. Published online November 9, 2014. Full text

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