Sounding the Alarm on Skin Cancer

"The findings raise the alarm that not only is skin cancer a growing problem in the United States, but the costs for treating it are skyrocketing relative to other cancers," said the lead author of the report, Gery Guy, Ph.D., of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.

The most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, skin cancer, is "a major and growing health problem," according to a CDC report published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in November 2014. The study sheds light on how fast skin cancer treatment costs have risen in recent years, finding that the costs for treating this type of cancer rose between 2002 and 2011 five times faster than the cost of treating other types of cancers.

This finding puts in perspective both the Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention rule and OSHA's campaign to protect outdoor workers from occupational heat illnesses. The average annual number of adults being treated for skin cancer in the United States jumped from 3.4 million during 2002-2006 to 4.9 million during 2007-2011, representing a 44 percent increase. But the average annual cost for skin cancer treatment soared from $3.6 billion during 2002-2006 to $8.1 billion during 2007-2011, an increase of 126 percent. The average annual cost for treatment of all other types of cancer increased by 25 percent during the same period.

"The findings raise the alarm that not only is skin cancer a growing problem in the United States, but the costs for treating it are skyrocketing relative to other cancers," said the lead author of the report, Gery Guy, Ph.D., of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. "This also underscores the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts."

The American Cancer Society and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designate the Friday before Memorial Day as Don't Fry Day, so this year it falls on May 22, 2015. ACS also has created an infographic about skin cancer prevention that can help workers protect themselves.

Most cases of melanoma, which is the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by UV exposure. CDC recommends taking these precautions to prevent harmful UV exposures:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that offers both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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