Cancer Costs the UK £15.8 Billion per Year

New research presented yesterday, claims that the total yearly price tag of all cancers to the UK economy is currently £15.8 billion, of which lung cancer accounts for £2.4 billion – far greater than any other type of the disease.

The results of the research highlight the on-going need to tackle smoking, which causes more than 8 in 10 lung cancers across the UK.

£7.6 billion, or roughly half of the overall economic cost of cancer to the UK, is as a result of early deaths and time off work, according to the research, which was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool yesterday.

Healthcare spending accounts for an additional 35%, or £5.6 billion, and unpaid care to cancer patients by friends and family for 16%, or £2.6 billion.  The study found that healthcare expenditure signifies a cost of £90 per person in the UK.

The average healthcare spend on every UK cancer patient is £2,776.  Every lung cancer patient costs the healthcare system £9,071 annually, in comparison to only £2,756 for bowel cancer, £1,584 for prostate cancer and £1,076 for breast cancer survivors.  The total economic costs of other cancers to the UK are £1.6 billion for bowel cancer, £1.5 billion for breast cancer and £0.6 billion for prostate cancer, the study, which was led by Dr Jose Leal from the Health Economics Research Centre at the University of Oxford, noted.

“Lung cancer costs more than any other cancer, mainly because of potential wage losses due to premature deaths from people in employment – about 60% of the total economic costs – and high health care costs,” commented Dr Leal.

“The death rate from the disease remains high at 56 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK population annually, and almost a quarter of these occur before retirement,” he added.

Discussing cancer costs as a whole, Leal noted that “premature deaths, time off work and unpaid care by friends and family account for 64% of all cancer costs in the UK in 2009. These wider costs should be taken into account when deciding research priorities – cancers with the highest economic cost could offer the highest expected returns from investment in research.”

Head of evidence at Macmillan Cancer Support, Dr Siobhan McClelland, noted that Dr Leal’s research is “vital in helping us understand the true cost of cancer to the NHS and British society.”

“Without a better understanding of the costs of cancer, there is a very grave danger than the NHS will not be able to adapt to and cope with the changing face and cost of cancer service provision,” she added.

The research also shows that, within the European Union, cancer was the second key cause of death, after cardiovascular disease, in 2009.

Cancer is estimated to cost the European Union 124 billion euros each year, or 247 euros per EU citizen, with healthcare accounting for 39% of costs and 4% of the whole healthcare spending.  Across the region, lung cancer represented 15% of total cancer costs, followed by breast cancer (12%), colorectal cancer (10%) and prostate cancer (6%).

“A better understanding of the economic burden of cancers is essential to help evaluate the impact of public health policies and prioritise the allocation of future research funds,” Dr Leal added.


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