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Cancer Costs May Rise 27% by 2020

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 24, 2011

The United States will spend at least $158 billion to treat cancer in 2020 – an increase of 27% over 2010, and expensive new tools for diagnoses, treatment, and follow-up could bump the price up to $207 billion, according to a new study by the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH projections, published online this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, were based on the most recent data available on cancer incidence, survival, and costs of care. In 2010, medical costs associated with cancer were projected to reach $127.6 billion, with the highest costs associated with breast cancer ($16.5 billion), colorectal cancer ($14 billion), lymphoma ($12 billion), lung cancer ($12 billion) and prostate cancer ($12 billion).

If cancer incidence and survival rates and costs remain stable and the United States population ages at the rate predicted by the U.S. Census Bureau, direct cancer care expenditures would reach $158 billion in 2020, the report said.

“Rising healthcare costs pose a challenge for policy makers charged with allocating future resources on cancer research, treatment, and prevention,” said study author Angela Mariotto, 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."

Researchers also did additional analyses to account for changes in cancer incidence and survival rates and for the likelihood that cancer care costs will increase as new technologies and treatments are developed.

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