Economic burden is significantly higher for survivors of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers compared with persons with no cancer history; however, excess economic burden attributable to cancer varies by cancer site and age. These findings were reported online ahead of print in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (doi:10.1093/jnci/djv382).1

Cancer survivors experience higher medical expenditures and productivity losses, yet little is known about the annual economic burden in regard to the three most prevalent cancers in nonelderly (18 to 64 years) and elderly (65 years and older) adults in the United States.

This study used 2008 to 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data to measure excess annual medical expenses and productivity losses for colorectal cancer (n=540), female breast cancer (n=1568), and prostate (n=1170) cancer survivors, and for persons with no cancer history (n=109 423). The researchers stratified the data by cancer site and age, and controlled for age, sex, race/ethnicity, marital status, number of comorbidities, and geographic region.

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Annual excess expenditures were higher for cancer survivors compared with persons with no cancer history. Nonelderly survivors’ annual excess expenditures were $8657, $5119, and $3586 for colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, respectively. For elderly survivors, those expenditures were $4913, $2288, and $3524 for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers, respectively.

Employment disability and productivity loss, both at work and at home (7.2 days and 4.5 days, respectively), were more likely for nonelderly colorectal and breast cancer survivors. But productivity losses were comparable among elderly survivors and those with no cancer history for the three major cancer sites.

“Understanding this burden is an important step to shape health care policies to target areas where cancer survivors are most vulnerable,” the researchers conclude.


1. American Cancer Society. Financial burden of cancer survivorship varies by age, cancer site [news release]. EurekAlert! Web site. Posted December 26, 2015. Accessed December 29, 2015.