Estimating Health Care Costs of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer in Saskatchewan using Physician Billing Data

D. A. Tran, A. C. Coronado, S. Sarker, R. Alvi


Introduction Given the high occurrence and morbidity of non-melanoma skin cancer (nmsc), its economic burden on the Canadian health care system is a cause for concern. Despite that relevance, few studies have used patient-level data to calculate the cost of nmsc. The objective of the present study was to use physician billing data to describe the health care costs and service utilization associated with nmsc in Saskatchewan.

Methods The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency’s cancer registry was used to identify patients diagnosed with nmsc between 2004 and 2008. Treatment services and costs were based on physician billing claims, which detail physician services performed in an outpatient setting. Total and annual outpatient costs for nmsc and mean outpatient cost per person were calculated by skin cell type, lesion site, and geographic location. Service utilization and costs by physician specialty were also explored.

Results Total outpatient costs grew 12.08% annually, to $845,954.98 in 2008 from $527,458.76 in 2004. The mean outpatient cost per person was estimated at $397.86. Differences in the cost-per-person estimates were observed when results were stratified by skin cell type ($403.41 for basal cell carcinoma vs. $377.85 for squamous cell carcinoma), lesion site ($425.27 for the face vs. $317.80 for an upper limb), and geographic location ($415.07 urban vs. $363.48 rural). Investigation of service utilization found that 92.14% of treatment was delivered by general practice and plastic surgery/otolaryngology physicians; dermatology delivered only 6.33% of services.

Conclusions Our results underestimate the direct costs of nmsc because inpatient services and non-physician costs were not included in the calculations. The present research represents a first step in understanding the cost burden of nmsc in Saskatchewan.


Non-melanoma skin cancer; nmsc; costs; economic burden; physician billing claims; outpatient costs; direct costs; administrative data

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)