older woman walking outside

Power of Prevention

Health and Economic Benefits of Skin Cancer Interventions

Each year in the United States, nearly 6 million people are treated for skin cancer,1 and the number of new cases continues to grow.2,3

The most common types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma—are usually treatable,4 but treatment is expensive and can leave scars.1,5 Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer and is much more deadly.2,4

Skin Cancer in the United States

Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning devices.4

  • In 2019, 88,059 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed, and 8,092 people died of it.2
  • More than one-half of high school students6 and about one-third of adults7 get sunburned at least once each year.
  • Even though use of tanning beds has declined in recent years, about 900,000 high school students8 and 7.8 million adults9 continue to engage in this activity.
  • Sunburn and use of tanning beds are most common among non-Hispanic White people.6,7 This group also has the highest rate of new skin cancer cases.2,3
The High Cost of Skin Cancer in the United States

$8.9 BILLION‡(a)

total annual medical costs
of treating all skin cancer types1

  • An estimated 33,826 emergency department visits for sunburn are reported each year,10 for a total estimated cost of $11.2 million.‡(b)
  • Prohibiting the use of indoor tanning among minors younger than 18 could prevent an estimated 61,839 melanoma cases and 6,735 melanoma deaths over the lifetime of young people aged 14 or younger in 2013.11 These reductions could save more than $342 million‡(c) in treatment costs.
Costs were measured in a2018 US dollars, b2013 US dollars, and c2014 US dollars. Older cost estimates are likely to be underestimates

Benefits of Using Proven Strategies

Using proven community skin cancer prevention programs could:

  • INCREASE use of sun protection, such as seeking shade; wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirt; and using broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.4,13
  • PREVENT sunburns and premature skin aging and lower the risk of skin cancer by reducing unnecessary sun exposure and sun damage.4,13
  • REDUCE harms from the use of indoor tanning devices, including skin burns, eye damage, and increased risk of skin cancer.4
  • SAVE an estimated $250 million* a year in health care costs by preventing an estimated 21,000 cases of melanoma by 2030.14

* Cost estimates were adjusted to the projected increase in health expenditures from 2011 through 2030.

Strategies That Work

CDC is working to prevent cancer, detect it early, and improve the health of people with cancer, which can save lives and reduce health care costs. The best way to reduce skin cancer risk is for people to make sun safety an everyday habit and avoid indoor tanning and sun tanning.4 But outdoor environments and community policies are often not designed with sun safety in mind.

Communities and decision makers can help put proven skin cancer prevention programs into action.4 For example, they can:

  • Increase shade at playgrounds, public pools, and other public spaces.
  • Promote sun protection in recreation areas, including selling hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
  • Encourage employers, childcare centers, schools, and colleges to teach employees and students about sun safety and skin protection.
  • Restrict the availability and use of indoor tanning by minors.
  • Promote electronic reporting of skin cancers and encourage health care systems and providers to use these systems.

CDC leads skin cancer prevention efforts by:

  • Using national surveillance data to monitor trends in melanoma cases and deaths and skin cancer risk factors.
  • Conducting research to develop and test prevention messages.
  • Examining the policy, health system, and environmental factors that influence skin cancer risk behaviors.
  • Making sure partners and the public have accurate and timely information about skin cancer prevention and resources to help them put the science of skin cancer prevention into action in their communities.
mother and child under beach umbrella

CDC’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program helps programs across the country use proven strategies to improve sun safety as part of its efforts to prevent and control cancer.12

  1. Kao SY, Ekwueme DU, Holman DM, Rim SH, Thomas CC, Saraiya M. Economic burden of skin cancer treatment in the United States: an analysis of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data, 2012-2018. Cancer Causes Control 2022 Nov 30. doi: 10.1007/s1052-022-01644-0. Online ahead of print
  2. Cancer Statistics Working Group. U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, based on 2021 submission data (1999–2019): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute; www.cdc.gov/cancer/dataviz, released in November 2022.
  3. Rogers HW, Weinstock MA, Feldman SR, Coldiron BM. Incidence estimate of nonmelanoma skin cancer (keratinocyte carcinomas) in the US population, 2012. JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(10):1081–1086.
  4. US Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2014.
  5. Gualin C, Sebaratnam DF, Fernandez-Penas P. Quality of life in non-melanoma skin cancer. Australas J Dermatol. 2015;56(1):70–76.
  6. Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2018;67(8):1–114.
  7. Holman DM, Ding H, Berkowitz Z, Hartman AM, Perna FM. Sunburn prevalence among US adults, National Health Interview Survey 2005, 2010, and 2015. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019;80(3):817–820.
  8. Holman DM, Everett Jones S, Qin J, Richardson LC. Prevalence of indoor tanning among US high school students from 2009 to 2017. J Community Health. 2019;44(6):1086–1089.
  9. Guy GP Jr, Watson M, Seidenberg AB, Hartman AM, Holman DM, Perna FM. Trends in indoor tanning and its association with sunburn among US adults. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(6):1191–1193.
  10. Guy GP Jr, Berkowitz Z, Watson M. Estimated cost of sunburn-associated visits to US hospital emergency departments. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(1):90–92.
  11. Guy GP Jr, Zhang Y, Ekwueme DU, Rim SH, Watson M. The potential impact of reducing indoor tanning on melanoma prevention and treatment costs in the United States: an economic analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol.2017;76(2):226–233.
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 Skin Cancer Prevention Progress Report. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2019:32.
  13. Community Preventive Services Task Force. What Works. Cancer Prevention and Control: Skin Cancer Prevention. Evidence-Based Interventions for Your Community. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2014.
  14. Guy GP Jr, Thomas CC, Thompson T, Watson M, Massetti GM, Richardson LC. Vital Signs: melanoma incidence and mortality trends and projections — United States, 1982–2030. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(21):591–596.