The rising cost of cancer

Cancer costs more and more every year for a couple of key reasons. First, people are always getting tested and diagnosed at higher rates. This is a big reason why cancer rates were seemingly so low just 100 years ago. Second, cancer is most prevalent as we age. As the baby boomers grow older, we are going to find more and more incidences of cancer. (There are, of course, more reasons, including inflation and other economic factors.)

Government researchers have recently figured several estimates for the cost of cancer care in 2020. They include:

* Using data from a 2005 national database, the team estimated medical costs associated with cancer were $127.6 billion in 2010.

* Assuming stable costs and survival rates, cancer costs will reach $158 billion in 2020.

* If the costs of cancer diagnostic tests and treatments rise 2 percent per year, the cost of treating cancer could rise to $173 billion by 2020.

* If treatment costs rise 5 percent per year, treating cancer in the United States could jump to $207 billion a year.

* In 2010, breast cancer was the most costly to treat at an estimated $16.5 billion, followed by colorectal cancer at $14 billion, lymphoma at $12 billion, lung cancer at $12 billion and prostate cancer at $12 billion.

* 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 largest increase in cancer survivors over the next 10 years will be among Americans age 65 and older.

Short of a cure, the best way we can reduce these numbers will be to do all we can to avoid known carcinogens. That means doing everything we can to limit smoking. (I favor an outright ban.) It means discouraging tanning booths. (I favor an outright ban.) It means encouraging people to use sunscreen. (A requirement would be far from anything practical, thus I do not favor it.) It means getting kids to eat healthier. It means getting adults to eat healthier. It means doing a whole lot of things we all know we ought to be doing.

I expect a continued rise in costs.

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