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A small round melanoma cell at the top and a large, flat melanoma cell underneath it. Credit: Professor Chris Bakal, the ICR.

Wed 15 March 2023:

The total cost of cancer to the global economy will reach 25.2 trillion international dollars between 2020 and 2050, according to a recent report published in JAMA Oncology.

The study analyzed 29 cancers across 204 countries and found that five types of cancer, including tracheal, bronchial and lung cancer, colon and rectal cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and leukemia, will account for roughly half of that cost.

International dollars are an artificial currency often used in economic analyses and comparisons across countries.

The report said that, without further investment, cancer is expected to cost the global economy an accumulated Int$25.2 trillion in health-care costs, lost labor, and spent savings over the next 30 years.

The analysis also found that the cost of certain cancers differed around the world, with breast and cervical cancer having the largest economic impact in sub-Saharan Africa and lung cancer being the most costly in wealthy countries.

This information could help policymakers target specific cancers in policy and push for increased investment in cancer research and prevention.

Preventive measures, such as policies to curb tobacco use and regular cancer screenings, can help tackle costly diseases like lung cancer and cervical cancer, the report stated.

While addressing cancer is expensive, the cost of not addressing it is even higher, the report stated, and investments in prevention and research are crucial to reducing the economic burden of cancer on the global economy.

“People outside the cancer community may be surprised to see the extent of cancer’s economic cost,” André Ilbawi, a technical lead in cancer control at the World Health Organization in Geneva, said.

These kinds of study show that “the economic cost of cancer is undeniable”, he said.

Researchers have previously estimated the global cost of cancer — the leading cause of death worldwide — but these studies have mainly looked at a select number of cancers.

To get a more complete picture, Simiao Chen, a health economist at the Heidelberg Institute of Global Health in Germany, and her colleagues collected economic and health data from around the world.

They then modelled the future cost of cancer, breaking down the data between countries and cancer types. Apart from the direct cost of treatment, diagnoses affect the economy by forcing people to step away from work and to spend their savings on treatment.

Although three-quarters of deaths caused by cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries, the analysis found that more than half of the global cost of cancer will occur in high-income countries, with China and the United States bearing the highest burdens. This is partly due to their large populations, but also to the high cost of health care in the United States.






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