The National Cancer Institute set out to answer this question last year and published results of their investigation in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The study’s authors point to flaws in previous cancer cost estimates, many of which did little more than take figures from 15 years ago and adjust them for inflation.
When one considers the major transformations in cancer care in just the past decade, it is not hard to see why these earlier estimates are unreliable. Using the Surveillence, Epidemiology, and End Results database to obtain incidence rates and Medicare records for medical expenses, Mariotto and colleagues estimated the following:
US Cancer Care Costs in 2010:
Projected US Cancer Costs in 2020: $157.77 billion-$207 billion*
*Lowest figure assumes constant incidence, survival, and cost; highest figure assumes increase for greater use of targeted therapies.
Most expensive cancers in 2010 (in billions):
- Breast: $16.50
- Colorectal: $14.14
- Lymphoma: $12.14
- Lung: $12.12
- Prostate: $11.85
For men and women whose deaths were caused by cancer in 2010, costs were highest in the first 12 months after diagnosis and the last 12 months of life across all malignancies. The greatest increase in cost from the first year to the last year was for melanoma. For example, a woman aged <65 years accumulated $6057 in medical costs in the year of diagnosis and $85,175 in the final year of life