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How spending $32 on your health can save billions

The cost of skin cancer: An astronomical ROI

Beryl Reker //May 5, 2016//

How spending $32 on your health can save billions

The cost of skin cancer: An astronomical ROI

Beryl Reker //May 5, 2016//

Chew on these numbers for a second (because you likely do fall somewhere in them):

A good tube of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 costs about $32. The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion (about $4.8 billion for non-melanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma).

Where would you like to spend your money?

You make major purchases fairly routinely. You buy things that make you happy, or buy something you need, maybe something that, should you treat it well and take care of it, you will make your money back, right? 

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and most critical barrier against infection. It’s your first line of defense in protecting internal tissues from harmful germs. When there’s a break in your skin, germs can invade your body and cause infection. 

People who insist they don’t need that $32 sunscreen because they “never go outside,” may be unaware that 87 percent of skin damage is due to incidental sun damage – equivalent to two weeks on the beach without protection from the skin-damaging (cancer building) sun.

So here are some numbers to support the $32 spend:

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • In the U.S. alone, over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated and more than 3.3 million people die annually. (Bob Marley died at age 36 of melanoma).
  • Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of a lifetime.
  • Actinic keratosis is the most common pre-cancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.
  • About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

Let’s touch on melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. (It ain’t pretty.)

  • One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 52 minutes).
  • An estimated 76,380 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016.
  • An estimated 10,130 people will die of melanoma in 2016.
  • Melanoma accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
  • The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun.
  • Melanoma is one of only three cancers with an increasing mortality rate for men, along with liver cancer and esophageal cancer.
  • The estimated 5-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 98 percent in the U.S. The survival rate falls to 63 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes, and 17 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
  • On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
  • Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent16 and the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.

You don’t have to bother securing a medical-grade, 30 SPF or higher sun block for $32. You don’t have to bother slathering it regularly on all exposed skin, including the backs of your hands (think of your hands on that steering wheel) – and then reapplying it frequently.

You certainly don’t have to consider how each minute your skin spends in unprotected sunlight, how each UV ray is working mightily to break down your skin and otherwise wreak havoc with your cells.

After all, you are never in the sun, right?

But that $32 and the resultant application process can prevent a whole host of costs not mentioned here: the fear and the worry of a skin-cancer diagnosis; the cost of repeated co-pays once you are diagnosed and then the costs of treatment; the potential horror of learning your face must undergo skin repair and reconstructive surgery, and the the money you will shell out to “get your skin back,” are but a few.

Aggressive sun protection habits and the price of about a month’s worth of coffees seem like trivial prices to pay to avoid all that.

Let’s just call it one heck of an ROI.

May is skin cancer awareness month. Learn more at