Cost of U.S. Cancer Treatment to Reach At Least $173 Billion by 2020

There will be 18.1 million cancer survivors in the U.S. by 2020.The American population is aging, and the numbers say that 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030. The plain truth is that our aging population will cause health care costs to rise dramatically per capita, due simply to the fact that aging people require medical attention for diseases such as cancer, and other conditions.

Right now, estimates show that the annual cost to treat cancer is $127.6 billion. That number will rise to $173 billion by 2020 if the cost of treatment rises two percent each year. If costs rise five percent a year, cancer would cause $207 billion in treatment costs.

The number of cancer survivors is forecast to rise by at least 30 percent by 2020, which means there will be 18.1 survivors in the U.S. The new figures were released by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The agency’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences studied 13 cancers in men and 16 in women.

The U.S. cost to treat cancer will rise substantially due to an aging population.Currently, breast cancer is the most costly form of the disease to treat ($16.5 billion). This is because of the high rate of incidence for breast cancer, not because it costs the most to treat. Colorectal cancer is the second-most expensive cancer to treat ($14 billion), followed by lymphoma ($12 billion), lung cancer ($12 billion) and prostate cancer (also about $12 billion).

The largest cost increases between now and 2020 will be incurred to treat breast cancer (forecasted at a 32 percent increase) and prostate cancer (42 percent). These high increases are caused, again, by the fact more women and men will be living a longer amount of time with these diseases.

Cancer patients are living longer, but the cost of many cancer treatments is increasing.Cancer is becoming more identifiable due to screening improvements, but the cost of many treatments is continuing to increase at a high rate – especially end-of-life treatments. As might be expected, cancer is most costly to treat upon being diagnosed, and near the time of death.

The researchers hope the above numbers will be carefully considered by policy makers who appropriate direction and funding for cancer research, screening/treatment and prevention. The number of elderly Americans will skyrocket from 40 million in 2009 to 70 million in 2030, and this will have a profound effect on the health care system.

The study was published both online (Jan. 12) and in print (Jan. 19) by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. More information can be found at

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