Skin cancer is diagnosed at a much lower level in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska members than people living in other parts of the country. From 2014 to 2017, our members had a 0.7 percent rate of diagnosed skin cancer.
Nebraska men have a higher rate of skin cancer than women. Costs were also higher for men. The average cost to treat skin cancer was $2,854.90 per claim in 2017. Members living in Omaha and eastern Nebraska’s rural areas have the highest prevalence in the state.
When it comes to melanoma, a form of skin cancer, rates decreased 7.6 percent over the same time period. The average age of those treated for melanoma is 52: With men seeking treatment on average at age 55 and women at age 49.
“I am hopeful that the reason we have seen a decrease in melanoma rates in Nebraska is that providers are doing a great job educating patients about the dangers of UV light from sun exposure and tanning beds,” Dr. Debra Esser, BCBSNE chief medical officer, said.
Nationally, melanoma is on the rise, increasing 7 percent in the last four years, according to a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Health of America report. Similarly, women were diagnosed at a younger age, 54, but rates for men doubled between the ages of 55 and 64.
Based on medical claims, the report estimates that nine million Blue Cross and Blue Shield members across the country are living with a skin cancer diagnosis. Florida had the highest rates at 7.1 percent.
The American Cancer Society recommends early detection and education to reduce those numbers. Tips on how to recognize skin cancer and do self-exams are available on their website. If you do spend extended periods in the sun they suggest the following:
- Limit exposure – sunbathing and tanning beds cause serious long-term skin damage
- Seek shade and cover up – wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Use sunscreen – broad spectrum protection with an SPF of 30 plus, apply every two hours
“Children should be taught at an early age to limit their exposure to the sun,” Esser said. “Sunburns do damage to the skin each time they occur and add up over time. While the perception is that a suntan is healthy, in reality it causes skin cancer and ages your skin.”