Global Efforts Are Needed to Contain the Cost of Cancers

Global Efforts Are Needed to Contain the Cost of Cancers

Despite global efforts, incidence of cancers and resultant mortality continue to increase worldwide, although the health burden is not distributed evenly across countries. Previous economic analyses have not accounted for the dynamics of morbidity- and mortality-related changes in the population and the implications of treatment costs when evaluating the cost of cancers. Knowing the economic costs helps policymakers enact appropriate policies, optimize resource allocation, and build healthcare systems that can manage the expected increases in cancer prevalence. To support these efforts, a multinational team conducted an analysis to estimate and project the economic cost of 29 cancers in 204 countries and territories. This was the first study to use a model that accounts for productivity losses due to cancer-related mortality and morbidity among people with different educational and experience levels. Their results estimated the global macroeconomic cost of cancers from 2020 to 2050 to be $25.2 trillion international dollars (INT $). This is equivalent to an annual tax of 0.55% on global gross domestic product (GDP), or a per capita burden of INT $2857.

The economic and health burden of cancers was distributed unequally across cancer types, countries, world regions, and country income groups. The cancers with the highest economic costs are tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer (INT $3.9 trillion); colon and rectum cancer (INT $2.8 trillion); breast cancer (INT $2.0 trillion); liver cancer (INT $1.7 trillion); and leukemia (INT $1.6 trillion). These cancers account for half global economic costs of cancers.

The countries facing the largest costs are China (INT $6.1 trillion) and the United States (INT $5.3 trillion), accounting for 24.1% and 20.8% of the total global burden, respectively. Bulgaria has the highest cost as a share of GDP, at 1.42%, while the highest per capita economic cost is in Monaco, at INT $85 230. From a regional perspective, North America has the highest economic burden from cancers as a per capita cost and percentage of GPD, followed by Europe and Central Asia, with Sub-Saharan Africa having the lowest burden. High-income countries bear the greatest cost burden, equivalent to a total economic loss of INT $12.8 trillion. By contrast, the majority (75.1%) of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, while these countries also have a lower share of the economic cost of cancers, at 49.5%. Treatment costs had a greater contribution to the total economic cost of cancers in high-income countries than in low-income countries.

High level
These results suggest that investments in cancer mitigation (ie, cancer research and development), cost-effectiveness analysis of public health interventions, and cancer prevention strategies may yield substantial economic benefits. Policymakers could also develop initiatives to strengthen primary care and facilitate inclusion of cost-effective cancer screening programs in insurance benefits. Since tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer has the highest economic cost, there is particular urgency for investment in prevention of this type of cancer, as well as additional research to support its diagnosis, control, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Ground level
Clinicians can contribute to containing the economic cost of cancers by embracing innovative forms of healthcare delivery (eg, community-based screening and digital health).