Multiplicity of skin cancers in Queensland and their cost burden to government and patients

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Objective: To determine the cost burden to government and patients for individuals with multiple skin cancers.

Methods: We used self-reported baseline data on socio-demographics, phenotype and sun exposure behaviours from participants in the QSkin Sun and Health Study with at least one histopathologically confirmed keratinocyte cancer or melanoma (n=5,673). Linkage to Australian Medicare data (2011–2014) provided resource data and government and out-of-pocket patient costs. Generalised linear models examined costs by frequency of skin cancer groups separately for melanoma and keratinocyte cancer.

Results: Over three years, 539 participants were diagnosed with melanoma (11% had ≥2 melanomas) and 5,134 participants were treated for keratinocyte cancers (10% had ≥6). Median Medicare costs per person were $1,325 (maximum $6,117) for ≥2 melanomas and $2,126 (maximum $54,618) for ≥6 keratinocyte cancers. Increased costs were associated with private health insurance.

Conclusions: Individuals who are multiply affected by skin cancers are relatively common and the accompanying individual and government cost burden can be substantial. These findings support skin cancer being classified as a chronic disease.

Implications for public health: Over time, the economic burden for skin cancer for individuals and health providers is high and investment in prevention remains important from an economic viewpoint.

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