Medical costs associated with treating cancer have nearly doubled over the past two decades, revealed investigators of a study published in Cancer (2010 May 10 [Epub ahead of print]).

The analysis, led by Florence Tangka, PhD, a health economist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), examined trends in the medical costs of cancer and how these costs are paid for. Used for the study was data from 2001-2005 taken from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey and the National Medical Care expenditure Survey from 1987. According to background information provided by the authors, both surveys are nationally representative of individuals across the United States and capture self-reported data on medical conditions and related expenditures.

The analysis revealed that between 1987 and the 2001-2005 period, the total medical cost of cancer increased from $24.7 billion to $48.1 billion. Investigators explained that this surge in costs resulted from new cases diagnosed among the aging population as well as an increase in the prevalence of cancer.

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The team also reported that the share of total cancer cost incurred after inpatient hospital admissions dropped from 64.4% in 1987 to 27.5% during the 2001-2005 period. Moreover, the decrease in cancer-related inpatient costs was accompanied by an increase in cancer-attributable outpatient expenditures.

“The information provided in this study enhances our understanding of the burden of cancer on specific payers and how this burden may change as a result of health reform measures or other changes to health care financing and delivery,” concluded Dr. Tangka.