On top of those direct healthcare costs, lost productivity and early
deaths among patients with melanoma and other malignancies tied to
tanning bed use will exceed $127 billion over the lifetime of the
people currently diagnosed with these cancers, the study also found.
“We already knew that the use of indoor tanning devices is damaging
to health and can cause cancer, but we did not have a comprehensive
documentation of the health impacts at the population level or an
estimate of the costs of health care to treat these conditions,”
said study co-author Hugh Waters of the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill.
An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. use tanning beds at least
once a year, and they have approximately 25,000 tanning salons
nationwide to choose from, researchers note in the Journal of Cancer
To estimate the health costs associated with indoor tanning,
researchers tallied the average costs to treat skin malignancies
including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell
Based on previously published estimates of the increased cancer risk
associated with tanning beds, they also calculated the proportion of
cases of these cancers that is attributable to indoor tanning.
With data on the prevalence of tanning device use in the U.S., they
were able to calculate the number of skin cancer cases caused by
tanning beds and the associated costs for treatment in 2015.
That year, tanning beds were linked to 8,947 cases of melanoma, more
than 168,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and at least 86,000
cases of basal cell carcinoma.
Based on data from Medicare, the U.S. health insurance program for
the elderly, researchers calculated that the average 2015 cost of
treating melanoma was $5,054 per case and the typical cost for other
skin cancers was $1,168.
In addition to these medical costs, researchers calculated the
economic loss over the lifetime of individuals currently diagnosed
with these cancers based on what they described as the value of a
lost year of life.
This estimate was calculated based on the size of the U.S.
population and on a measure of the size of the economy known as
gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015. Under this formula, a year of
life lost resulted in a $55,266 reduction in GDP.
It's possible the study underestimated the number of skin cancers
associated with indoor tanning, the authors note. Their cost
estimates also didn't include long-term medical and productivity
costs associated with follow-up physician visits or additional care.
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However, it's also possible the study overestimated the economic
costs associated with indoor tanning, said Dr. David Leffell, a
researcher at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, who
wasn't involved in the study.
"I believe that the health risks and costs of natural sun exposure
exceed those of indoor tanning substantially," Leffell added by
All unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can increase the
risk of developing skin cancer, noted Dr. Elizabeth Martin,
president of Pure Dermatology and Aesthetics in Hoover, Alabama, and
a researcher at the University of Alabama School of Medicine.
"The cost of treating skin cancer is the same regardless of whether
the patient used indoor tanning or tanned outdoors," Martin, who
wasn't involved in the study, said by email.
Tanning beds, however, can make melanoma, the deadliest type of skin
cancer, more likely, and the risk increases with more tanning
sessions, Martin said.
The risk is stark for young women.
"Women younger than 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma
if they tan indoors," Martin noted. "Even one indoor tanning session
can increase users' risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67
percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent."
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2lkInK7 Journal of Cancer Policy, online
February 28, 2017.
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