The combination of an aging population (aided by some 75 million baby boomers) and long term American love of the outdoors and sunshine is leading to a massive outbreak of skin cancer. The number of skin cancers in Medicare beneficiaries increased dramatically over the years 1992 to 2006, due mainly to an increase in the number of affected individuals. Using nationally representative databases, recent studies provide evidence of a much higher overall total of skin cancer diagnoses and patients in the US population than previous estimates.This new data gives the most complete assessment to date of the under recognized epidemic of skin cancer in the United States.
More than 2 million Americans on Medicare were treated for non-melanoma skin cancer in 2006, up from 1.6 million in 1992, according to one study. Another study found that one in five 70-year-olds has been treated for non-melanoma skin cancer. Incidence-based models indicate that the prevalence of a skin cancer history is about 5 times higher than that of breast or prostate cancer. This is quite stunning in light of the great attention paid over the recent years to both breast and prostate cancer. Skin cancer incidence is also larger than the 31-year prevalence of all other cancers combined. Despite their high frequency, incidence, morality and morbidity for the most common non-melanoma skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma (BSC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) remain lacking.
Costs associated with skin care are enormous. If one includes the complete range of skin care products and treatments, all the way from cosmetics, so sun screen to medical treatments, it is likely that the cost exceeds many billions. There are few studies on the actual costs to the health care system of skin cancer. In 2007, one study of the costs in England estimated some 240 million British Pounds (almost 400 million US dollars) were spent on skin cancer diagnosis and treatment.
One thing is very clear, in the case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Since the vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancers occur on the face, judicious and liberal use of potent sun screens is important. This is particularly true for the young, who often feel less of need for this and who also tend to be more concerned about achieving that "healthy tanned" look. For baby boomers, all of 75 million of whom will turn 65 by 2014, much of the damage is done. Their main focus must be on preventing further damage as well as on regular screening to catch lesions in very early stages before more radical surgery and treatment become necessary. The sun is both our friend and enemy, we need to be sure to learn how to deal with that friend on a day to day basis.
Incidence Estimate of Non-melanoma Skin Cancer in the United States, 2006 - http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/146/3/283?home
Prevalence of a History of Skin Cancer in 2007 - http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/146/3/279?home
Cost of skin cancer in England. The European Journal of Health Economics: HEPAC : health economics in prevention and care. Volume:10 ISSN:1618-7598, 2009 Jul - http://www.biomedsearch.com/nih/Cost-skin-cancer-in-England/18791757.html
Skin Cancer Rising in U.S. Epidemic of Non-Melanoma Malignancy - http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601124&sid=aGDsy2XyWSKk
Skin cancer has become an 'epidemic' in the U.S., researchers say - http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2010/03/non-melanoma-skin-cancer-e
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers in the Millions and Rising - http://healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=637042