Cancer costs projected to soar, study finds


Here’s some good news about the health of Americans:

  • Life expectancy is increasing, and the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the number of senior citizens (those age 65 or older) will grow from 40 million in 2009 to 70 million in 2030.
  • The incidence of most kinds of cancer has been decreasing since the mid-1990s.
  • Patients are surviving longer after being diagnosed with cancer.

And here’s the bad news:

  • Since cancer disproportionately strikes senior citizens, the total number of Americans diagnosed with cancer is projected to rise.
  • The cost of treating all these cancer patients is estimated to be at least $158 billion in 2020.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute came to that sobering conclusion by using data from the NCI, Medicare and the census. They projected how many Americans would be diagnosed with 17 kinds of cancer and how much it would cost to take care of each of them.

The $158-billion price tag represents a 27% increase over total cancer-care costs in 2010 – and that’s assuming that costs remain flat. When the researchers factored in annual inflation of 2%, the tab rose to $173 billion. Scarier still, a 5% inflation rate raised the total bill to $207 billion.

In other models, the researchers kept costs flat but changed other assumptions. When cancer patients lived longer after diagnosis, the total cost of treatment reached $165 billion in 2020. When the researchers assumed that fewer people would be diagnosed with cancer in the first place, costs fell to $148 billion.


The types of cancer included in the analysis were: bladder, brain, breast (women only), cervix (women only), colorectal, esophagus, head and neck, kidney, leukemia, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, ovarian (women only), pancreatic, prostate (men only), stomach, and uterine (women only). The results were published online Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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