Aging Population Could Send Cancer Costs
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- By 2020, the annual cost
of cancer care in the United States is expected to reach at least
$158 billion -- a 27 percent jump from 2010, according to a report
from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
The surge in cost will be largely driven by an aging population
that is expected to develop more cases of cancer in the near-term.
And projected costs could go even higher if the price tag for care
rises faster than expected.
"This reflects only the aging and growth of the U.S. population," said lead researcher Angela Mariotto, chief of the Data Modeling Branch in the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. She described the 2020 cost estimate as "on the low side."
Cancer is a disease of aging and the population of elderly
Americans is expected to rise from 40 million in 2009 to 70 million
by 2030. Improvements in screening mean cancer is becoming more
identifiable and treatable, but therapies are becoming increasingly
"If the trend in incidence, survival and cost continue as they have been, then the estimates could be as high as $207 billion by 2020," Mariotto said. "That's an assumption that the cost of treatment will grow annually at a 5 percent rate," she added.
The report is published online Jan. 12 and in the Jan. 19 print
issue of the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
To estimate the cost of cancer treatment, Mariotto's team looked
at data on 13 cancers in men and 16 in women. Tracking the rate of
these cancers and the current costs to treat them in 2010, they
were able to project costs in 2020. In these calculations they
assumed that costs would rise by only 2 percent a year.
The largest increases in cost over the period will be for breast
cancer at 32 percent and prostate cancer at 42 percent, simply
because more people will be living longer with these diseases, the
For example, while the cost of treating breast cancer remains
relatively low (compared to other tumor types), by 2020 this cancer
will incur the highest costs -- about $20.5 billion -- since there
are expected to be many more women living with the disease.
The new projections do
not take into account other costs associated with cancer,
such as screening and other prevention measures, Mariotto
"These rising costs raise a challenge for both the federal government and for the private sector," she believes. The new data could help policymakers set priorities for managing new treatments and diagnostic technologies, she added.
Commenting on the study, Elizabeth Ward, the national vice
president for Intramural Research at the American Cancer Society,
said that "a big component of the rise in cost is just the growth
and aging of the population. We are just going to have more people
developing cancer and under treatment for cancer," she said.
And while many new treatments do cost more, there's debate on
whether the cost is always worth the benefit, Ward said.
"Most individuals in our society value human life enough to say it's probably worth it," Ward said. "I think where you get more debate, if a treatment only extends life only four weeks [for example]. That's on the borderline," she said.
For more information on the cost of cancer, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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