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Economic evaluation of a skin cancer prevention program in Australia : past achievements and future prospects

conference contribution
posted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ting-Fang Shih, Rob CarterRob Carter, C Sinclair, Cathy MihalopoulosCathy Mihalopoulos, T Vos
Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancer prevention campaigns have been implemented in Australia for over two decades. The most notable is under the brand name, SunSmart. The aim of the current study is to assess the cost-effectiveness of SunSmart in the past and the potential cost-effectiveness of an ongoing national SunSmart program with optimal investment in the future.

An economic evaluation from a health sector perspective was conducted using the reduction in skin cancer incidence attributable to the SunSmart program modelled as the primary end-point. Historical SunSmart program expenditures were obtained from three representative states in three latitude zones, covering different levels of UVR exposure. Melanoma incidence rates from the three representative state cancer registers were used to model the health outcomes. Program effectiveness was assessed by the comparison between the well-resourced SunSmart state (Victoria) and the under-invested states (New South Wales and Queensland). Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC) was modelled based on national survey results. 2003 was chosen as the reference year and future costs/outcomes over a 20 year time horizon were discounted at 3%.
The future level of investment in a national SunSmart was chosen to strengthen current practice by increasing current investment to a realistic and achievable level. This conservative increase in investment (expressed as ‘$ per capita’) reflected the investment level that has been achieved in Victoria over sustained periods. To model the potential cost-effectiveness of an upgraded national SunSmart program, a conservative approach was taken, whereby the same magnitude of effectiveness from 1988 to 2003 was applied to future skin cancer incidence.

SunSmart in Victoria has saved 22,300 life-years, averted 27,900 disability-adjusted life-years(DALYs)(discounted) since its introduction in 1988 and achieved an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of $AUD 680 per life-year saved (LYS) and $AUD 540 per DALY averted. When the cost-offset from the estimated reduction in skin cancer treatment costs were taken into account, SunSmart achieved ‘dominance’. The net cost of SunSmart in the past was an estimated saving of $AUD 93 million. An upgraded national SunSmart for the next 20 years would save 91,000 life-years and avert 122,000 DALYs (discounted), involving an increased investment level from the current $AUD 0.07 per capita to the historical average of $AUD 0.28 per capita. The ICER for the upgraded SunSmart program was estimated at $AUD 940 per LYS and $AUD 700 per DALY averted. When the cost-offset is included, the program achieves dominance with a cost saving of $AUD 115 million – an estimated $AUD 2.32 return for every dollar invested between 2003 and 2022.

This study demonstrates that a sustained modest investment in skin cancer control is likely to be excellent value-for-money. While the available data base is certainly not prefect, key parameters would have to change dramatically for this conclusion to be challenged.



iHEA World Congress on Health Economics, Harmonising Health and Economics (7th : 2009 : Beijing, China)


International Health Economics Association (iHEA)


Beijing, China

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[Beijing, China]

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E2.1 Full written paper - non-refereed / Abstract reviewed

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2009, International Health Economics Association (iHEA)

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iHEA 1009 : Presentations of the 7th World Congress on Health Economics, Harmonising Health and Economics

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