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

Dec 09, 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: Phase 3 study may be game-changer for acute myeloid leukemia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

World's fastest camera used to detect rogue cancer cells

Jul 06, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The ability to distinguish and isolate rare cells from among a large population of assorted cells has become increasingly important for the early detection of disease and for monitoring disease ...

Breathless in the Megacity

Sep 23, 2011

Megacities offer the enticing prospect of employment and the benefits of an urban infrastructure – but they also expose their inhabitants to high levels of air pollution. Together with an Indian Partner ...

Fighting cancer across the disciplines

Feb 21, 2011

Still a mystery in the 21st Century, cancer has been known and documented since ancient times. The oldest known written description of cancer dates back to an Egyptian manuscript from 1,600 B.C.E. The Greeks ...

Recommended for you

New breast cancer imaging method promising

4 hours ago

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Palliation is rarely a topic in studies on advanced cancer

4 hours ago

End-of-life aspects, the corresponding terminology, and the relevance of palliation in advanced cancer are often not considered in publications on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This is the result of an analysis by ...

Breast cancer replicates brain development process

4 hours ago

New research led by a scientist at the University of York reveals that a process that forms a key element in the development of the nervous system may also play a pivotal role in the spread of breast cancer.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...