Estimating the cost of skin cancer detection by dermatology providers in a large health care system

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Data on the cost and efficiency of skin cancer detection through total body skin examination are scarce.


To determine the number needed to screen (NNS) and biopsy (NNB) and cost per skin cancer diagnosed in a large dermatology practice in patients undergoing total body skin examination.


This is a retrospective observational study.


During 2011-2015, a total of 20,270 patients underwent 33,647 visits for total body skin examination; 9956 lesion biopsies were performed yielding 2763 skin cancers, including 155 melanomas. The NNS to detect 1 skin cancer was 12.2 (95% confidence interval [CI] 11.7-12.6) and 1 melanoma was 215 (95% CI 185-252). The NNB to detect 1 skin cancer was 3.0 (95% CI 2.9-3.1) and 1 melanoma was 27.8 (95% CI 23.3-33.3). In a multivariable model for NNS, age and personal history of melanoma were significant factors. Age switched from a protective factor to a risk factor at 51 years of age. The estimated cost per melanoma detected was $32,594 (95% CI $27,326-$37,475).


Data are from a single health care system and based on physician coding.


Melanoma detection through total body skin examination is most efficient in patients ≥50 years of age and those with a personal history of melanoma. Our findings will be helpful in modeling the cost effectiveness of melanoma screening by dermatologists.

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