Skin in the game: the cost consequences of skin cancer diagnosis, treatment and care in Northern Ireland

Ethna McFerran*, Sarah Donaldson, Olivia Dolan, Mark Lawler

*Corresponding author for this work

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Skin cancer is a prevalent cancer in the UK. Its rising incidence and mortality rates are expected to result in substantial financial implications, particularly on diagnostic and treatment services for skin cancer management in Northern Ireland (NI). Such anticipated disease increases underscore the need for prevention and control measures that should help guide policymaking and planning efforts.

We conducted a cost of illness study to assess the economic impact of skin cancer in NI from the healthcare system's perspective, using a bottom-up method, employing NHS reference costs (UK£) for skin cancer diagnosis and treatment patient pathways in 2021/22. Sensitivity analyses varied diagnostic volumes by applying multipliers for benign cases, assuming a diagnostic conversion rate of 6.8%, and examined an alternative chemotherapy regimen compliance rate of 75%. Additionally, proportional cost increases were projected based on future estimated increases of 9% and 28% to malignant melanoma (MM) cases for diagnostic, treatment, and follow-up volumes.

Significant numbers of non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) and MM cases were recorded, 4289 NMSCs and 439 MM cases. The total cost for managing NMSC was £ 3,365,350. Total costs for MM skin cancer were £ 13,740,681, including £ 8,753,494 for procurement, administration, and chemotherapy drug use. Overall healthcare spending on skin cancer care totalled £ 21,167,651. Sensitivity analysis suggested diagnostic cost may increase significantly to £ 12,374,478 based on referral volume assumptions. If base case rates rise by 9 or 28% estimated total costs of treating skin cancer will increase to £ 22.3 million and £ 24.9 million, respectively.

Skin cancer management costs in NI totalled ∼£ 21.1 million to £ 32.1 million, depending on diagnostic referral assumptions. Costs have risen ∼10-fold over the past decade for MM due largely to chemotherapy costs. A predicted 28% increase in MM cases by 2040 would lead to ∼£ 3.8 million of additional expenditures, providing a significant challenge for cancer health systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100468
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cancer Policy
Early online date14 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Skin cancers
  • Health Economics
  • Melanoma
  • Cost of Illness


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