Skin Cancer Patients Prioritize Cosmetic Outcomes Over Cost image

Skin cancer patients who require surgery on their faces are willing to pay more for a smaller scar, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Researchers conducted a multisite study of 912 skin cancer patients who were randomly assigned to one of four scenarios: skin cancer on the cheek or back with a low risk of spreading or skin cancer on the cheek or back with a high risk of spreading.

Patients desired smaller and barely visible scars and willingness to pay for a smaller or less noticeable scar was higher when the surgery affected the face rather than the back, the study showed.

Specifically, patients were willing to pay twice as much for a 1-inch scar on the face or back instead of a 5-inch scar. However, they were only willing to pay half as much for a 1-inch scar on the back compared to the same-sized scar on the face, the study found.

“We make smaller holes with Mohs surgery,” says study author Nicholas Golda, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, in a news release. “The idea is that Mohs would yield a smaller defect and provide an opportunity for a smaller scar. With Mohs, you are doing all of the laboratory work, the examination and the excision all bundled into the same procedure. Per incidence, it seems costly, but when you start looking at recurrence rates and the cost of doing subsequent surgeries to treat recurrence – and the opportunity for smaller reconstructions on a population level – cost levels out.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Nicholas Golda, MD, performs Mohs micrographic surgery on a skin cancer patient.