(HealthDay News) — People with cancer are more than two and a half times as likely to declare bankruptcy as similarly aged people without cancer, according to a study published online May 15 in Health Affairs.

Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues estimated the incidence and relative risk of bankruptcy for people age 21 or older diagnosed with cancer compared to people the same age without cancer. Retrospective cohort analysis utilized a variety of medical, personal, legal, and bankruptcy sources covering the Western District of Washington State in U.S. Bankruptcy Court (1995 to 2009).

The researchers found that cancer patients were 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than people without cancer. Bankruptcy rates were two to five times higher among younger cancer patients compared to cancer patients age 65 years or older, which indicates that Medicare and Social Security may mitigate bankruptcy risk for the older group.

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“The findings suggest that employers and governments may have a policy role to play in creating programs and incentives that could help people cover expenses in the first year following a cancer diagnosis,” the authors write.

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