Did you know that each year in the U.S., more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other types of cancers combined? The American Academy of Dermatology Association cites an estimate that approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
There are many options for treating different types of skin cancer, but they can be expensive. Even with major medical insurance through an employer-sponsored plan or from coverage purchased on the Exchange, you may still have out-of-pocket costs related to skin cancer treatment.
If you aren’t currently protected with major medical insurance, consider short term health insurance to provide temporary coverage for unexpected illness or injuries. Short term health insurance does not provide the ACA’s essential health benefits, and is not guaranteed-issue, which means if you have pre-existing conditions you can be charged higher premiums or denied coverage.
If short term insurance is available in your state, your policy may last between 30 to 364 days, depending on your state.
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Keep reading to learn about:
- Skin cancer risk factors
- Prevention tips and treatment options
- How different insurance products may be able to help pay for costs related to skin cancer treatment
What’s Your Risk for Skin Cancer?
Some people are at increased risk to develop skin cancer, due to physical factors such as a lighter natural skin color, eyes and hair. Exposure to sun from work or play, as well as certain kinds and a higher number of moles also have been linked with a greater risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer.
Certain types of skin cancer also can be hereditary. Malignant melanoma, a form of cancer that begins in the melanocytes (the cells which produce pigment in the skin), can be inherited. If you have a family history of skin cancer, be sure to let your doctor know.
- The cost to treat skin cancers in the U.S. each year is estimated at $8.1 billion
- Using sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher each day lowers the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by approximately 40%
- About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to UV radiation from the sun
Steps You Can Take to Help Prevent Skin Cancer
While you can’t control certain risk factors such as genetics, experts say that there are lifestyle choices you can make to help reduce your chances of getting skin cancer.
Limit your exposure to UV rays
Head for the shade
You can still enjoy the great outdoors, but when possible, choose shady spots rather than areas exposed to direct sunlight.
Hats, clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher offer your skin protection from the sun’s UV rays. Reapply sunscreen regularly and after swimming.
Avoid artificial tanning
UV rays from tanning beds and sun lamps contribute to skin cancer, and both dermatologists and health organizations suggest not using these products.
Finally, remember to protect your kids. Children are more vulnerable to sun exposure, so besides shielding them from UV rays, be sure to teach them about sun safety practices.
Eat an antioxidant-rich diet
Can eating certain foods affect whether you develop skin cancer? The answer appears to be yes.Research shows that free radicals caused by UV exposure, can damage your skin’s DNA, and potentially lead to skin cancer. Dietary antioxidants can help fight free radicals and the damage they can cause.
Next time you’re heading to the grocery store, check this list of nutritious, wholesome foods which can boost your chances of reducing skin cancer. Some nutritious antioxidant-rich foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, walnuts, flaxseeds, strawberries, oranges, brazil nuts and freshly brewed black or green tea.
Check your skin
When detected and treated early, both non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma have a high survival rate. Because you can see skin cancer, regular screenings and exams can be useful in detecting a skin issue.
Professional skin cancer screenings
Skin cancer screenings are not included in the ACA’s preventive care benefits for adults. However, check with your health insurance company to learn if and how your policy’s specific benefits apply to skin cancer screenings and dermatologist visits.
You also may be able to find free or low-cost skin cancer screenings in your area through organizations such as:
If your screener finds anything unusual, you may be advised to schedule an appointment for further examination and testing.
It won’t cost you anything to perform a monthly self-exam from head-to-toe. The process takes just a few minutes, and a number of online resources can help you learn how.
- The Skin Cancer Foundation provides a narrated and illustrated step-by-step guide to self-screening.
- The American Academy of Dermatology offers a wealth of free skin cancer screening resources. You’ll find how-to videos as well as infographics, PDFs, maps and fact sheets that walk you through self- and partner-screenings and help you track your body moles.
- The Melanoma Research Foundation offers self-screening information for adults as well as a guide for kids.
If you notice any new or concerning spots on your skin or any of the ABCDEs of Melanoma during a self-exam or in the course of your daily life, make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist to have it examined.
Contact your health insurance company to verify your benefits and locate in-network providers.
What if you can’t afford a visit to the dermatologist or don’t have health insurance? Check for free or low-cost clinics or call a dermatologist’s office and inquiring about a discounted bill.
Skin Cancer Treatment
If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you may have many treatment options based on the type of cancer you have. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are eight standard forms of treatment for the most common skin cancers—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and actinic keratosis:
- Radiation therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Chemical peel
- Other drug therapy
In addition, new types of treatment are routinely tested in clinical trials.
The cost for skin cancer treatment varies based on the type of skin cancer you have, where the cancer is located and the stage at which it is discovered.
ACA-compliant plans are required to help pay for your cancer treatment. In addition, if you qualify and want to participate in a clinical trial, your major medical plan must help pay for routine costs that are part of the approved clinical trial.
You will be responsible for certain out-of-pocket costs associated with your treatment, such as copays, coinsurance and deductible amounts.
Short Term Health Insurance
Being uninsured means that you may not have protection from medical costs if you are diagnosed with a serious condition such as skin cancer.
Short term health insurance is a temporary, affordable non-ACA insurance option designed to provide coverage for a limited period of time for costs related to doctor office visits, hospital room and board, surgery and emergency room treatment.
You can keep this coverage for 30-364 days based on your state.
Your medical history will determine if you are approved for coverage, because short term health insurance is not guaranteed-issue. If you’re approved, you can often start coverage within 24 hours of your approval date.
Short term medical provides few, if any, of the essential health benefits required by ACA-qualifying plans. As a result, short term health premiums may be lower than ACA-qualifying plan premiums, although pricing will vary depending on your selected benefits.
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Summary and Next Steps
It is currently estimated that 20% of Americans will develop skin cancer at least once in their lifetime, but there are preventive steps you can take to reduce those chances, such as limiting your sun exposure, performing regular skin screenings and self-exams, and consuming a diet rich in antioxidants.
With early intervention, treatment may be effective in curing different types of skin cancer.
If you don’t have major medical insurance, consider purchasing a short term insurance plan to provide you temporary coverage until you can enroll in a more permanent health insurance solution. While short term coverage does not qualify as ACA insurance as discussed above, it may help you pay for unexpected medical expenses.