Power of Prevention: The Health and Economic Benefits of Preventing Chronic Diseases

Skin Cancer

Each year in the United States, nearly 5 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

  • Every year, more than 82,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, and about 8,000 die of it.2
  • Over one-half of high school students6 and about one-third of adults7 get sunburned at least once each year.
  • Indoor tanning has declined in recent years, but about 900,000 high school students8 and 7.8 million adults9 continue to engage in this activity.
  • Non-Hispanic whites and people with sun-sensitive skin have the highest percentage of sunburn and indoor tanning6,7 and the highest rates of new skin cancer cases.2,3

Strategies That Work

CDC is working to prevent cancer, detect it early, improve the health of people with cancer, and reduce health care costs associated with cancer. 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, child care 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.

The 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 15.4,10
  • PREVENT sunburns and premature skin aging and lower the risk of skin cancer by reducing unnecessary sun exposure and sun damage.4,10
  • 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 2030.11
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 their efforts to prevent and control cancer.12

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.
money

$8.1 BILLION‡(a)

total annual medical costs
of treating all skin cancer types1

The High Cost of Skin Cancer

  • The annual cost for treating melanoma has grown faster than the costs for all cancers combined.1
  • The annual cost of treating new patients with melanoma is projected to triple from $457 million in 2011 to $1.6 billion* by 2030.11
  • An estimated 33,826 emergency department visits for sunburn are reported each year,13 for a total estimated cost of $11.2 million.‡(b)
  • Prohibiting the use of indoor tanning among minors younger than 18 years could prevent an estimated 61,839 melanoma cases and 6,735 melanoma deaths over the lifetime of young people currently aged 14 or younger in the United States.14 These reductions could save more than $342 million‡(c) in treatment costs.
*
Cost estimates were adjusted to the projected increase in health expenditures from 2011 through 2030.
Costs were measured in a2011 US dollars, b2013 US dollars, and c2014 US dollars. Older cost estimates are likely to be underestimates
References
  1. Guy GP Jr, Machlin SR, Ekwueme DU, Yabroff KR. Prevalence and costs of skin cancer treatment in the US, 2002-2006 and 2007-2011. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48(2):183–187.
  2. US Cancer Statistics Working Group. US Cancer Statistics: Data Visualizations website. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dataviz. Accessed February 24, 2020.
  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. 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.
  11. 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.
  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. 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.
  14. 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.
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2020