Cancer Caused $94.4 Billion in Lost Earnings in 2015

New research from the American Cancer Society found cancer caused $94.4 billion in lost wages in 2015.
Donna Fuscaldo
A woman embraces her daughter who is fighting cancerFatCamera/iStock

In 2015 alone, cancer took the lives of more than 8.7 million people with a cost of $94.4 billion in lost earnings among those between the ages of 16 and 84. 

That's according to new research from the American Cancer Society, which said researchers updated data for the U.S. that is lacking both nationally and by state. 


Researchers, led by Farhad Islami, M.D., Ph.D. came up with the figures by calculating person-years of life lost using the number of cancer deaths and life expectancy for those between the ages of 16 and 84 who died of cancer in the U.S. in 2015. The estimates are for loss earnings alone and don't include the other costs associated with cancer including treatments and care. 

The researchers found that in the U.S. in 2015, 492,146 people between the ages of 16 to 84 died of cancer, equating to 8,739,939 life years lost. Lost earnings were $94.4 billion or $191,900 per cancer death. 

The American Cancer Society found lung cancer caused the most lost earnings, accounting for $21.3 billion or 22.5% of the total. Colorectal cancer was second, accounting for $9.4 billion of the losses or 10%. Female breast cancer was responsible for $6.2 billion in lost earnings, representing 6.5% of the total while pancreatic cancer deaths resulted in $6.1 billion in lost earnings, representing 6.5% of the total. 

Lung Cancer Caused Highest Lost Earnings 

Lost earnings were highest for leukemia among the ages of 16 to 39 while lung cancer was the highest in those 40 and older. From a state perspective, researchers found states that had the highest lost earning rates were in the South followed by the Midwest. States with the lowest lost earning rates were in the West, Northwest, and Hawaii. In Utah, the lost earnings were $19.6 million per 100,000 while in Kentucky it jumped to $35.3 million per 100,000. 

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"Years of life lost and lost earnings were high for many cancers for which there are modifiable risk factors and effective screening and treatment, which suggests that a substantial proportion of our current national mortality burden is potentially avoidable," said Dr. Islami in the report. "Applying comprehensive cancer prevention interventions and ensuring equitable access to high-quality care across all states could reduce the burden of cancer and associated geographic and other differences in the country."

Cancer is the second-leading cause of the death in the U.S. with the American Cancer Society predicting it will cause more than 606,880 deaths this year alone. By providing accurate data on the economic impact of the disease, the American Cancer Society argues it can help set policies and prioritize resources for prevention and control. 


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