From the Journals

Cancer deaths cost over $94 billion in lost earnings in 2015



Cancer led to 492,000 deaths for Americans aged 16-84 years in 2015, and those deaths cost $94.4 billion in lost earnings that year, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.

Lost earnings per cancer site for persons aged 16-84 years, 2015

Cancer also took more than 8.7 million years of life from those individuals, with lung cancer being the most costly in terms of both lost earnings and years of life lost, said Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, and associates at the American Cancer Society, Atlanta.

“Person-years of life lost and lost earnings were high for many cancers associated with modifiable risk factors and effective screening and treatment, suggesting that a substantial proportion of the mortality burden is potentially avoidable,” they wrote, adding that “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.”

In 2015, lung cancer took more than 2.2 million years of life and $21.3 billion in earnings from Americans aged 16-84 years. Colorectal cancer was next with 766,000 years of life lost and $9.4 billion in lost earnings, followed by female breast cancer with losses of 746,000 years of life and 6.2 billion in earnings, Dr. Islami and associated reported.

For all cancers, the cost in lost earnings per death was almost $192,000, with the highest costs coming from cancers of the brain and nervous system ($315,000) and cervix ($311,000). On that basis, lung cancer cost was lower than average at $159,000 per death, they noted.

At the state level, lost-earnings rates were lowest in Utah ($19.6 million per 100,000 persons) and highest in Kentucky ($35.3 million per 100,000). “If all states had Utah’s lost earnings rate in 2015, lost earnings in the U.S. would have been reduced by 29.3%, or $27.7 billion, and life years lost nationwide in 2015 would be reduced by 2.4 million,” Dr. Islami and his associates said in a written statement.

Data for the study were obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics (mortality) and the U.S. Census Bureau (earnings). The study was supported by the Intramural Research Department of the American Cancer Society, and all of the investigators are employees of the society.

SOURCE: Islami F et al. JAMA Oncol. 2019 Jul 3. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.1460.

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