Economic cost of cancer mortality is high in US, regardless of how cost is measured

December 9, 2008,

The economic cost of death due to cancer is high in the United States, regardless of whether researchers estimate the economic impact in lost work productivity or in a more global measure using the value of one year of life, according to two studies published online December 9 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers can estimate the economic burden of cancer mortality in terms of lost years of work (the human capital approach) or using the willingness-to-pay approach, which calculates the impact based on how much people would pay to gain one additional year of life ($150,000 based on prior studies in the U.S.).

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the economic impact of cancer mortality, Robin Yabroff, Ph.D., of the Health Services and Economics Branch of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues used the willingness-to-pay approach, while Cathy J. Bradley, Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University and the Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, Va., and colleagues used the human capital approach.

In 2000, cancer deaths cost the United States $115.8 billion in lost productivity, Bradley reports. That estimate jumped to $147.6 billion for 2020, due to changes in the population size and age. An annual 1 percent reduction in mortality, compared with current trends from leukemia and lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and brain cancer, would reduce the estimate by $814 million per year. When Bradley and colleagues included the value of caregiving and household duties lost, as well as regular wage earning jobs, the cost of cancer mortality more than doubled to $232.4 billion in 2000 and $308 billion for 2020.

The estimates were even larger when Yabroff and colleagues used the willingness-to-pay approach. In that case, the cost of cancer mortality was $960.7 billion in 2000 and was predicted to be $1,472.5 billion in 2020. An annual decrease in mortality of 2 percent reduced the projected cost of breast cancer mortality from $121.0 billion in 2020 to $80.7 billion, of colorectal cancer from $140.1 billion to $93.5 billion, for lung cancer from $433.4 billion to $289.4 billion, and for prostate cancer from $58.4 billion to $39.0 billion.

Lung cancer alone accounted for 25 percent or more of the costs in the two models.

"Regardless of the method used to estimate the societal value of premature deaths, these mortality costs are an important component of the burden of disease," write Yabroff and colleagues. Moreover, Bradley and colleagues note that the cost of cancer mortality is high when compared with other diseases, such as diabetes or influenza.

"Decision makers can use the information we provide as a basis to assess the costs of inter¬ventions relative to their benefits to determine how to best allocate resources among these strategies," write Bradley and colleagues. "From a productivity loss perspec¬tive, investments in programs that reduce lung, breast, colorectal, leukemia, and/or pancreatic cancer mortality are likely to yield the largest annual reduction in productivity costs for US society."

In an accompanying editorial, Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle notes that both papers provide important, but somewhat incomplete, estimates of the cost of cancer. Despite the limitation, the numbers provide important information that can help policy makers. For example, he points out that by either measure the current investment in cancer research in the United States is low. "Clearly, these two studies suggest that the value of that information far exceeds our research investment (the National Cancer Institute's budget for 2008 is about $4.8 billion)," he writes.

"As a tool for advocacy, dollar values can be powerful, particularly when they are weighed against other programs that influence human life and health under limited budgets," he concludes.

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Explore further: Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

Related Stories

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Cancer is costing BRICS economies billions each year

January 24, 2018
Premature – and potentially avoidable – death from cancer is costing tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity in a group of key developing economies.

Are redheads with blue eyes really going extinct?

February 7, 2018
For every 100 people in the world, only one or two will have red hair.

Five inherited genetic variants linked to the most lethal prostate cancers

August 16, 2011
An international team of researchers led by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has identified five inherited genetic variants that are strongly associated with aggressive, lethal prostate cancer. The discovery ultimately ...

Value of cancer drugs in nine countries

May 2, 2016
The May issue of Health Affairs includes a study examining real-world cancer drug consumption in nine countries.

Cancer trends tell tale of insufficient prevention

November 4, 2013
Australians are now developing cancer at slightly higher rates but dying of the disease less often, according to University of Sydney research published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA).

Recommended for you

Researchers discover novel mechanism linking changes in mitochondria to cancer cell death

February 20, 2018
To stop the spread of cancer, cancer cells must die. Unfortunately, many types of cancer cells seem to use innate mechanisms that block cancer cell death, therefore allowing the cancer to metastasize. While seeking to further ...

Stem cell vaccine immunizes lab mice against multiple cancers

February 15, 2018
Stanford University researchers report that injecting mice with inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) launched a strong immune response against breast, lung, and skin cancers. The vaccine also prevented relapses ...

Induced pluripotent stem cells could serve as cancer vaccine, researchers say

February 15, 2018
Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a keystone of regenerative medicine. Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or ...

Team paves the way to the use of immunotherapy to treat aggressive colon tumors

February 15, 2018
In a short space of time, immunotherapy against cancer cells has become a powerful approach to treat cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. However, to date, most colon tumours appeared to be unresponsive to this kind ...

Can our genes help predict how women respond to ovarian cancer treatment?

February 15, 2018
Research has identified gene variants that play a significant role in how women with ovarian cancer process chemotherapy.

First comparison of common breast cancer tests finds varied accuracy of predictions

February 15, 2018
Commercially-available prognostic breast cancer tests show significant variation in their abilities to predict disease recurrence, according to a study led by Queen Mary University of London of nearly 800 postmenopausal women.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.