Do you know the most common type of cancer in the U.S.? Judging by awareness ads, personal experiences and the GoFundMe pages you see shared on social media, you might assume that breast or lung cancers are the biggest threat. Skin cancer, you might assume, falls somewhere down the list. You see plenty of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness and billboards about the dangers of smoking, but have you seen many mentions of skin cancer lately?
This May, hopefully you will.
A Skin Cancer Primer
Although many people don’t realize it, cancers of the skin are by far the most common type. That’s why we’re highlighting National Skin Cancer Prevention Month, which is observed every May. This month is the perfect time to brush up on the facts about skin cancer, learn how to spot a potential problem and commit to taking preventative steps.
First, understand that skin cancer is common but tends to be highly curable. An estimated 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancers each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Happily, only about 2,000 of those cases prove fatal.
Another type of skin cancer is melanoma. (Different types of cancers are formed from different types of skin cells.) Melanoma is much less common than basal and squamous cell cancers, and only about 1 percent of diagnosed skin cancer cases are melanoma. the American Cancer Society estimates that just under 100,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed with melanoma during 2019.
It’s important that any discussion of skin cancer include melanoma because it’s responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. The ACS predicts that about 7,320 people will die from melanoma during 2019, and says that the death rate for this type of cancer has been rising for 30 years.
Skin cancer tends to be highly curable. As long as the patient gets treatment before the cancer cells spread, full recovery is typical. Because sun exposure is a major contributor, these cancers are also highly preventable. Understanding the toll that skin cancer takes is important for everyone because everyone is at risk. Awareness is even more important for administrators and members of self-funded plans.
Skin Cancer and Self-Funding
From a purely financial standpoint, skin cancer is one of the “best” types of this deadly disease. When caught early, cancers of the skin can often be cured with minor medical treatment. If a patient’s cancer is a low-risk type and hasn’t spread beyond a small area, sometimes treatment is as simple as having the cancer cut out in a physician’s office.
Of course, not all patients are so lucky. Some require surgery, radiation, targeted drugs and sometimes even chemotherapy. Skin cancer that isn’t diagnosed early can spread to other parts of the body, requiring more invasive and expensive treatment.
While no conclusive data provides an average treatment price for skin cancers, we do know that the cost of skin cancer is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “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. The average annual cost for treatment of all other cancers increased by 25 percent during the same time period.”
Controlling costs is always a primary goal of employers that offer self-funded plans. Supporting prevention and early diagnosis measures is the best way to accomplish that goal, and more importantly, help your plan members stay healthy.
Observing National Skin Care Detection and Prevention Month
Making sure your plan members have access to resources about skin cancer is the single best way your company can observe this month. Create handouts or add information about the disease to your newsletter, like the fact that getting one blistering sunburn during childhood can double someone’s risk of developing a melanoma.
Minimizing sun exposure is a critical part of avoiding skin cancer. Employers can add more shade to outdoor employee break areas and provide plan members with sunscreen, sun hats or gift cards for sun protection clothing.
Promoting the health and wellbeing of your self-funded plan members is both ethically important and financially sound, so we hope you’ll join us in observing National Skin Care Prevention Month. And as always, contact Stop Loss Insurance, Inc. at any time with your self-funded and stop loss questions.