Cost of cancer deaths tops $94B annually

The economic cost of the of lost earnings due to cancer deaths in the U.S. was more than $94 billion in 2015, according to a new study published in JAMA Oncology.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society set out to estimate the lost earnings from cancer deaths overall and by the major cancers in the U.S. According to researchers, understanding the economic burden of cancer deaths can help inform policies and resource priorities for cancer prevention and control, but there is little available information. More than 8.7 million years of life were lost due to cancer deaths in the study group, researchers estimated.

In 2015, 492,146 people between 16 and 84 died of cancer, which translates to $94.4 billion in lost earnings. Individually, mean lost earnings were $191,900.

“By quantifying the economic burden of premature mortality due to cancer, our findings highlight state-level disparities and indicate that preventing premature cancer deaths would have substantial economic benefit nationally and for all states,” Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, of the Surveillance and Health Services Research Program from the American Cancer Society, and colleagues wrote.

The findings come at a time when cancer deaths have consistently been dropping in the nation over the last several years. 

Lung cancer had the highest total lost earnings, about 22.5% of the total, or $21.3 billion. Colorectal cancer had the next highest lost earning, making up 10% of the total with $9.4 billion, followed by female breast cancer––$6.2 billion––and pancreatic cancer––$6.1 billion.

Across states, lost earnings ranged from $139 million in Wyoming to $9512 million in California, according to the study. Improving cancer screenings, treatments and other preventions could have a significant impact on lost earnings.

“…Even achieving Utah’s present age-specific lost earning rates by other states could reduce lost earnings from cancer deaths by 29% nationally and by as much as 47% in Kentucky and Mississippi,” Islami et al. wrote.

Reducing risk factors and improving the disparity of high-quality cancer treatments across states could have a significant impact on lost earnings.

“Implementation of comprehensive cancer prevention interventions and equitable access to high-quality care across all states could reduce the burden of cancer and associated geographic and other differences in the country,” Islami and colleagues concluded.