Cancer Costs Will Soar

A new report predicts that by 2020, the annual cost of cancer care in the United States is expected to reach at least $158 billion.

According to the report from the U.S. National Cancer Institute that’s a 27 percent jump from 2010.  The surge in cost will be largely driven by an aging population that is expected to develop more cases of cancer in the near-term. 

Projected costs could go even higher if the price tag for care rises faster than expected.  Experts described the 2020 cost estimate as “on the low side” according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance which tracks medical and health issues impacting aging Americans. 

Cancer is a disease of aging and the population of elderly Americans is expected to rise from 40 million in 2009 to 70 million by 2030 notes Jesse Slome, executive director for the trade group. Improvements in screening mean cancer is becoming more identifiable and treatable, but therapies are becoming increasingly expensive. 

If the trend in survival and costs continue as they have been, then the estimates could be as high as $207 billion by 2020 one reseracher predicted. The report is published online Jan. 12 and in the Jan. 19 print issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

To estimate the cost of cancer treatment, the research team looked at data on 13 cancers in men and 16 in women. Tracking the rate of these cancers and the current costs to treat them in 2010, they were able to project costs in 2020. 

In these calculations researchers assumed that costs would rise by only 2 percent a year.  The largest increases in cost over the period will be for breast cancer at 32 percent and prostate cancer at 42 percent, simply because more people will be living longer with these diseases, the researchers noted. 

For example, while the cost of treating breast cancer remains relatively low (compared to other tumor types), by 2020 this cancer will incur the highest costs — about $20.5 billion — since there are expected to be many more women living with the disease. 

Commenting on the study, Elizabeth Ward, at the American Cancer Society, said that “a big component of the rise in cost is just the growth and aging of the population. We are just going to have more people developing cancer and under treatment for cancer,” she said.

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