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Cancer Deaths Take Heavy Financial Toll
Date:12/9/2008

One estimate projects the U.S. cost to be $1.472 trillion in 2020

TUESDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In pure economic terms of productivity lost and the expense of care-giving, cancer deaths cost the United States $232.4 billion in 2000 and will cost $308 billion in 2020, a new report finds.

But another way of measuring that toll includes the human element of years of life lost -- and that model placed the cost of cancer mortality at $960.7 billion in 2000 and projects it to reach $1.472 trillion in 2020.

Those two estimates appear in side-by-side papers published online Dec. 9 in the Journal of the American Cancer Institute. While the numbers differ widely, they are alike in one major respect, said Cathy J. Bradley, a professor of health administration at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, Va., and lead author of one of the reports.

"In both cases, the percentage of cost caused by lung cancer was about the same," Bradley said. "Lung cancer accounts for between a quarter and a third of the value of life lost."

The assessment made by Bradley and her colleagues used what is called the human capital approach, which looks strictly at money not earned or money spent because of cancer deaths. Lost productivity cost the country $115.8 billion in 2000. Adding in the cost of care-giving and lost household duties, as well as the loss of regular wage-earning jobs, more than doubled the total of that reckoning.

Robin Yabroff, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and lead author of the second paper, said his "calculation was based on willingness to pay. How much would an individual be willing to pay for an extra year of life?"

Estimates of that figure can vary, depending on the country. The Canadian government, for instance, has set the value of an added year of life at $50,000, a figure it uses to determine whether the national he
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