American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
April 2011 Clinical Laboratory News: News Brief

Cancer Costs to Climb to at least $158 billion in 2020

A new report released by the National Institutes of Health projects that medical expenditures for cancer will reach at least $158 billion in 2020—a 27% increase from 2010. The analysis took into account growth and aging of the U.S. population.

The report titled, “Cancer costs projected to reach at least $158 billion in 2020,” highlights survivorship and costs of cancer care based on changes in the U.S. population and current cancer trends. The authors found that if the cost of newly developed tools for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up continue to be ever more expensive, medical expenditures for cancer could climb as high as $207 billion.

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).

Snapshot Cancer Cost Projections

There were 13.8 million cancer survivors alive in 2010, according to the report’s prevalence estimates, 58% of whom were age 65 or older. The report concluded that if cancer incidence and survival rates continue at the current pace, the number of cancer survivors in 2020 will increase by 31%, to about 18.1 million. Research indicates that the largest increase in cancer survivors over the next 10 years will be among Americans age 65 and older.

The report points out that these new cancer cost projections are higher than previously published estimates of direct cancer expenditures, mostly because the researchers used the most recent data available—including Medicare claims data through 2006. This encompasses payments for newer, more expensive targeted therapies, which attack specific cancer cells and often have fewer side effects.

The full report is available at the NIH website.