Medicare Skin Cancer Coverage and Prevention Guide
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. In fact, experts estimate one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70.
While Medicare typically doesn’t cover skin cancer screening when you're asymptomatic, it can cover a doctor’s visit if you have skin concerns. For example, maybe you have a new mole or an existing one that’s changed recently in size, shape or color.
Skin cancer prevention can save your life. We’ll tell you about doctor’s recommendations for performing self-exams, offer some expert-approved tips to prevent skin cancer, and explain how Medicare can help cover skin cancer treatment.
How Can You Prevent Skin Cancer?
By detecting skin cancer early, you can start treatment sooner and improve your survival rate.
According to the American Cancer Society, many doctors recommend checking your own skin about once a month. You can check your skin using a wall and hand mirrors. Some of the ways skin cancer can appear include:
New growth, spot or bump on the skin
Sore that bleeds or does not heal
Mole or other spot that’s new or changes in size, shape, or color
Any mole with an odd shape, irregular borders or different colors
If you find something suspicious, have it checked by your doctor. You may be referred to a dermatologist (skin doctor) for a closer inspection and possibly a skin biopsy.
Minimize Sun Damage
A UK study found that 86% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. On average, your risk of melanoma cancer doubles by having five or more sunburns.
You can minimize your risk of damage from sunburn by reducing your exposure to the following:
Reflections: Water and sand reflects UV radiation.
Altitude: Due to thinner air, UV increases 2% for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation.
Snow: As much as 80% of UV may be reflected off a white, snowy surface.
Summer: The sun generally has a higher UV index in the summer season.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises skin self-examination for those over 65. Early detection of melanoma has a 99% five-year survival rate.
Avoid Painful Sunburns
Sometimes it’s impossible to stay out of the sun, especially when enjoying time with family. In those cases, there are many ways you can protect yourself from sunburn. Here are just a few doctor-approved examples:
Wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun. For example, protective clothing may include a long-sleeved shirt, pants and a wide-brimmed hat.
Limit your exposure to UV radiation during midday hours. The EPA UV recommendation is to avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
During midday hours, when the sun is strongest, stay in the shade. For example, use an umbrella to block UV sunlight.
Apply broad-spectrum sunscreens with at least SPF 15 to all exposed skin.
Does Medicare Cover Skin Cancer Treatment?
Original Medicare covers skin cancer inpatient hospital care (Part A) and outpatient medical services (Part B) and may also include surgery to treat skin cancer.
According to Cancer.org, surgery is a common treatment for basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. However, melanoma has a higher risk of spreading, and depending on the stage, you may need additional treatments. For example, Original Medicare covers chemotherapy you receive in the hospital (Part A) and as an outpatient (Part B).
Other Medicare covered treatments may include:
Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs, so you may need a standalone Medicare Part D drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage. For more help, call Senior Healthcare Direct to speak with a licensed agent at 1-833-463-3262, TTY 711 or get your quote.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The above is meant to be strictly educational and not intended to provide medical advice or solicit the sales of an insurance product or service of any kind.