Melanoma Diagnoses Rising, New Data Shows

Wide variations exist in skin cancer diagnosis rates between states and metropolitan areas

PORTLAND, Ore. – Prevalence of melanoma diagnoses increased 7 percent over a four-year span, according to information released by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA)’s Health of America Report.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

“Skin exposure to ultraviolet light is as likely to cause cancer as smoking cigarettes,” said Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA. “Americans should enjoy the sun, but also use the proper precautions to avoid too much exposure to ultraviolet light. Tanning beds should be avoided altogether in light of research documenting the strong correlation to skin cancer.”

Findings show that the rate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members living with melanoma more than double when men reach ages 55 through 64 and surpass rates for women in that age range. Women 54 years and younger have higher prevalence of diagnosed melanoma than men. Non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses are more prevalent in women at 4.6 percent compared to men at 3.5 percent, but the average cost of treating women is $468 compared to $678 for men.

In 2013, 237,000 commercially insured BCBS members within a sample of 41 million people were identified as having diagnosed melanoma, compared to 257,000 in 2016. Despite the increase, melanoma made up just 2.8 percent of all skin cancer diagnoses.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States: Nearly 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it every single day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Skin cancer affected 4.3 percent of BCBS members. By taking the skin cancer diagnosis rate found in the study and extrapolating it to 216 million privately insured people counted by the U.S. Census Bureau, BCBSA estimates that nine million privately insured people in the U.S. are living with a skin cancer diagnosis.

The findings are based on medical claims data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health IndexSM (BCBS Health Index℠), a first-of-its-kind measurement of health for nearly every county in America. It encompasses more than 200 conditions that impact health and identifies those health conditions with the greatest impact on the commercially insured population. The BCBS Health Index is powered by de-identified medical claims data from more than 41 million commercially insured members of BCBS companies. The interactive website allows people to measure the overall health and identify the top 10 conditions that negatively impact health at the state and county levels.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® is a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care.