Don't let fun in the sun burn a cancerous hole in your pocket

Sunscreen is a must to protect yourself against sun-caused skin complications.
Sunscreen is a must to protect yourself against sun-caused skin complications.
Image: 123RF/rudakova

Wearing sunscreen is far cheaper than sun-caused skin complications.

Breaking down the real cost of fun in the sun this festive season, the president of the Melanoma Society of SA, Dr Dagmar Whitaker, said that although cancer was the worst-case outcome for prolonged sun contact, many other costly health issues could arise.

"A good factor 50+ sunscreen usually costs between R150 and R300. The cost of reversing sun-caused skin complications can be anything from R390 to R40,000," he said.

Sanlam chief medical officer Dr Marion Morkel said the insurance company paid out R8.9m in claims for skin cancer last year.

"It’s not surprising that we have one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, considering we have one of the highest UV exposure indexes and an active lifestyle that inevitably involves prolonged sun contact," she said.

"This translates to us ranking third, with Australia and New Zealand taking top spots, in longevity studies for high-mortality experiences due to skin cancer," Morkel added.

Whitaker outlined the average cost of the most common treatments for sun-caused damage:

  • Cryotherapy to burn sun spots costs about R890, plus the consultation currently at R810;
  • Reversing pigmentation or accelerated skin ageing using hydroquinone, laser or needling costs R1,500-R4,000 a visit;
  • Removing moles costs R390 per mole, plus the R810 cost of consultation. Sometimes mole mapping is required at R650 per visit;
  • Skin cancer, without medical aid and dread-disease cover, in the early stages is treated with Photo Dynamic Therapy (PDT) at R3,020 per treatment and usually requires two treatments or surgery, which is about R450 per lesion plus the cost of materials used and the consultation fee, which brings the expense to about R2,100 for two lesions; and
  • Plastic surgery, if necessary, can cost R8,000-R10,000, while microscopically controlled surgery can cost anything up to R40,000 per skin cancer.