Study Finds Metastatic Breast Cancer Causes High Economic Burden Through Lost Productivity

August 17, 2020
Hannah Slater

Researchers indicated that especially among women considered to be midlife, metastatic breast cancer creates a high economic burden through lost productivity.

An analysis of productivity costs associated with metastatic breast cancer found that metastatic breast cancer creates a high economic burden through lost productivity, especially among women considered to be midlife.

The findings, published in Cancer, highlight the potential benefit that supportive resources may serve in helping women with metastatic breast cancer protect against potentially severe cancer-related financial losses for themselves and others within their households.

“[Metastatic breast cancer] can lead to a substantial economic burden through lost productivity in 2 ways,” the authors wrote. “First, women with [metastatic breast cancer] can miss productive days at work and home due to illness, either as a direct result of their [metastatic breast cancer] or due to the side effects of treatment. Second, premature mortality from [metastatic breast cancer] creates years of potential life lost (YPLL) for women.”

Using data from the 2000 to 2016 National Health Interview survey, researchers estimated the number of work and home productivity days missed due to metastatic breast cancer by age group. YPLL due to metastatic breast cancer were then calculated for each age group using data from the 2015 National Vital Statistics System. Notably, the 3 age groups studied included younger (aged 18-44 years), midlife (aged 45-64 years), and older (aged ≥65 years) women.

Overall, the per-woman value of lost productive days caused by metastatic breast cancer ranged from $680 for older women to $5169 for younger women. In 2015 specifically, the value of lost work and home productivity days associated with metastatic breast cancer nationally was $67 million for younger women, $246 million for midlife women, and $66 million for older women.

“The majority of those costs (98% = $17.8b/$18.2b) were due to premature mortality due to high mortality rates for [metastatic breast cancer and the relatively short survival noted once the disease is metastatic,” the authors explained.

Moreover, YPLL were highest among midlife women (403,786 life-years), followed by older women (248,522 life-years) and then younger women (95,943 life-years). Even further, midlife women were found to have the highest market value of YPLL ($4.1 billion), followed by younger women ($1.6 billion) and then older women ($527 million).

“The results of the current study have demonstrated the high economic burden that [metastatic breast cancer] generates through lost productivity, especially among midlife women,” the authors wrote. “Midlife is, on average, a woman’s most productive time of life; many women have caregiving responsibilities for children and aging parents and earnings peak for working women during these ages.”

Importantly, the national data sources included in the current study did not provide information regarding incident or current cancer stage, which made it difficult to directly associate lost work time with metastatic breast cancer. In addition, the current study analysis did not model the effect of metastatic breast cancer on labor force participation.

“[The] results of the current study have provided important data for future studies regarding the cost-effectiveness of preventive and therapeutic interventions to extend and improve the quality of life of patients with [metastatic breast cancer],” the authors wrote. “For example, future studies examining the value of new interventions for specific breast cancer subtypes that disproportionately affect women of different ages can use these results to model age-specific improvements in productivity.”


Trogdon JG, Liu X, Reeder-Hayes KE, Rotter J, Ekwueme DU, Wheeler SB. Productivity Costs Associated With Metastatic Breast Cancer in Younger, Midlife, and Older Women. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33077

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