NIH Study Predicts the Cost of Cancer Care will Increase 27% by 2020

January 13, 2011

According to a recent analysis by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, in 2020, medical expenditures for cancer should reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars). This represents an increase of 27 percent over 2010.

According to a recent analysis by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, in 2020, medical expenditures for cancer should reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars). This represents an increase of 27 percent over 2010. However, if newly developed tools for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up continue to increase in cost, medical expenditures for cancer could reach as high as $207 billion. The full analysis appears online today, Jan. 12, 2011, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 

To project national cancer expenditures, the researchers combined cancer prevalence (the current number of people living with cancer), with average annual costs of care by age (younger than 65 or 65 and older). According to their prevalence estimates, there were 13.8 million cancer survivors alive in 2010, 58 percent of whom were age 65 or older. If cancer incidence and survival rates remain stable, the number of cancer survivors in 2020 will increase by 31 percent to about 18.1 million. Because of the aging of the U.S. population, the researchers expect the largest increase in cancer survivors over the next 10 years to be among Americans age 65 and older.

“Rising health care costs pose a challenge for policy makers charged with allocating future resources on cancer research, treatment, and prevention,” said study author Angela Mariotto, Ph.D., from NCI’s Surveillance Research Program. “Because it is difficult to anticipate future developments of cancer control technologies and their impact on the burden of cancer, we evaluated a variety of possible scenarios.”

To increase the accuracy of their cost projections, the study authors computed the average medical costs for three different phases of cancer care: the first year after diagnosis, the last year of life, and the time in-between. For all cancers, per-person costs of care were highest in the final year of life. Per-person costs associated with the first year after a cancer diagnosis were more varied: Cancers of the brain, pancreas, ovaries, esophagus and stomach have the highest initial costs while melanoma, prostate, and breast cancers show the lowest initial-year costs.

These new projections are higher than those that have been previously published, largely because the researchers used the most recent data available – including Medicare claims data through 2006, which include payments for newer, more expensive, targeted therapies that attack specific cancer cells and often have fewer side effects than other modes of treatment. For more information on the study, how cost projections were calculated, and

More information about their findings, and cost projections can be found at: http://costprojections.cancer.gov