Cancer Deaths Associated With $94.4 Billion in Lost Annual Earnings to U.S. Economy

According to a study published in JAMA Oncology, premature deaths from cancer cost the U.S. economy more than $94 billion in annual lost earnings. The authors say these findings “suggest the potential for substantial financial benefit through delivery of effective cancer prevention, screening, and treatment to minimize premature cancer mortality in all states.”

The researchers calculated person-years of life lost using the number of cancer deaths and life expectancy data in U.S. individuals aged 16 to 84 years who died from cancer in 2015. The annual median earnings in the United States were used to assign a monetary value for each person-years of life lost by age and sex. Cancer mortality and life expectancy data were obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics and annual median earnings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Current Population Survey’s March Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

Billions lost, disparity by state

A total of 8,739,939 person-years of life lost were lost to cancer death, translating to lost earnings of $94.4 billion (95% CI, 91.7-97.3). For individual cancer sites, lost earnings were highest for lung cancer ($21.3 billion), followed by colorectal ($9.4 billion), female breast ($6.2 billion), and pancreatic ($6.1 billion) cancers.

“There is also large variation across states, reflecting disparities in the burden,” according to the authors. Age-standardized lost earning rates per 100,000 were lowest in the west and highest in the south, ranging from $19.6 million (95% CI, 19.1-20.2) in Utah to $35.3 million (95% CI, 34.4-36.3) in Kentucky.

Approximately 2.4 million person-years of life lost and $27.7 billion (95% CI, 26.9-28.5) in lost earnings (29.3% of total that occurred in 2015) would have been avoided in 2015 if all states had the same age-specific person-years of life lost or lost earning rates as Utah.