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Global Cancer Burden in Economic Terms and Cancer Statistics

Global Cancer Burden in Economic Terms and Cancer Statistics

Landmark report: global cancer burden in economic terms

  • First-ever study projects $305 billion global economic cost of new cancer cases in 2009
  • Report also identifies $217 billion treatment expenditure gap

DUBLIN, Ireland – August 24th, 2009 – A landmark report released today by the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF), estimates the total economic burden of new cancer cases at $305 billion in 2009. The findings are included in the report, “Breakaway: The Global Burden of Cancer – Challenges and Opportunities,” released today in Dublin at the premiere LIVESTRONG® Global Cancer Summit.

The report provides a striking call-to-action for global communities to act and to make new investments in cancer control, even in the face of the current economic down turn. Developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by LIVESTRONG, with support from the American Cancer Society, the report is the first of its kind, detailing the global cancer burden in economic terms.

“This report makes the powerful and staggering link between the well-understood human cost of cancer and the economic burden it places on countries around the world,” said LAF President and CEO Doug Ulman. “It’s a call to order that we must work collaboratively – governments, NGOs, the development community and advocates – to address the treatment expenditure gap and change the trajectory of this tidal wave of cancer. We have a choice – invest now or pay later, with significant government spending and loss of lives and productivity.”

Commenting on the new report, Dr. Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General, Noncommunicable Disease and Mental Health, World Health Organization said, “This new data delineates a stark trajectory for cancer if immediate action is not taken. The rise of cancer creates an enormous burden on health systems around the world. But this is not just a health challenge; it undermines economic growth and acts as a chronic poverty trap for the poorest countries. Bilateral and multilateral donors are not responding to requests from developing countries to support them in building sustainable institutional capacities to address non-communicable disease, because these issues are beyond those targeted by the Millennium Development Goals. We need to take a close look at addressing this gap.”

Gaps in Treatment Funding and Geographic Distribution

The report also establishes a global treatment expenditure standard, based on estimated treatment costs in the country with the lowest case fatality rate for each site-specific cancer. The report projects a treatment expenditure gap of approximately $217 billion in 2009.

Low and lower-middle income countries make up for 65 percent of that gap in investment. High-income countries representing 15 percent of the world population, contribute to 94 percent of the global total expenditure, based on a relatively large share of cancer cases, medical spending per case and nearly all of the world’s spending on cancer research.

In addition to the economic cost of cancer, the study compares projected new cancer diagnosis rates for 2009, with 2020. Assuming that every country’s age pattern of new cancer cases remains stable, the new analysis undertaken for the report estimates that there will be 30 percent (3.9 million)  new cancer cases in 2020 than in 2009. The largest percentage increase in new cancer cases is projected to occur in Africa, with Asia having the most new cases in absolute terms.

While at one time cancer was widely believed to afflict only the elderly in affluent countries, the disease has moved beyond high-income countries and into the developing world. More new cases of cancer and more deaths from the disease occur today in the lower- and middle-income countries that make up the developing world, than in high-income countries. Today, more than 50 percent of new cancer cases and nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths occur in the developing world. By comparison, in 1970, the developing world accounted for 15 percent of newly reported cancers.

“I call on governments to commit to quantitative, time specific targets for improvements in cancer survival rates at population level,” said Professor David Hill, AO President of The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). “I want these targets to be aspirational, meaning they are attainable with additional efforts. The LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit is a great platform to get this message across.”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • There will be an estimated 12.9 million new cancer cases globally in 2009
  • By 2020, the number of new cancer cases worldwide is anticipated to rise to 16.8 million.
  • By 2030, the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise to 27 million, with 17 million cancer deaths.
  • Cancers have already progressed to where they are incurable in 80 percent of patients in developing countries.
  • Evidence shows that only 5 percent of global resources for cancer are spent in the developing world. Low and lower-middle income countries will make up 46 percent of new cancer cases this year.

A Path Forward Through Unity

In conjunction with the release of the report, LIVESTRONG announced a statement of unity that provides a roadmap to reversing the course of the cancer epidemic and reducing the burden. The full text of the statement appears below:

In cancer, we face a looming public health crisis, as cancer becomes the leading cause of death worldwide. Cancer strikes without respect for political borders, age or socio-economic status and manifests differently from place to place. It is a global problem that requires collective action via a global movement to change the course of the disease in history.

A failure to act is indefensible – the human and economic costs are too high. And patients and survivors around the world cannot wait for action. From today forward, advocates, governments, the development community and the private sector must collaborate to realize new and effective policy, programmes and investment solutions.

LIVESTRONG supports the following actions to make cancer a global priority:

Every government should develop and adopt a national cancer plan – a co-ordinated strategy, goals and timeline, for addressing the burden of the disease within their borders. Regional and supra-national organizations should seek to co-ordinate efforts across borders.

Funding for cancer research, prevention and treatment should be prioritized as a public health investment that will yield significant future savings. Greater public and private investment is needed to close the gap between current spending and the significant burden of cancer borne by countries around the world.

Investments in essential public health infrastructure and education can have an impact on non-communicable and communicable diseases. We encourage the consideration of integrating non-communicable disease targets in the Millennium Development Goals to underscore the urgent need for governments, the international development community and philanthropic organizations to commit resources, to meet the health needs of the world’s population.

Cancer patients and survivors deserve to live and die with respect and dignity, not stigmatization because of their disease. Efforts to reduce stigmatization should be supported, through the implementation of educational programmes and awareness-building efforts; creation of support systems for patients and families; and a health system that supports compassionate end-of-life care.

Components of the Economic Burden of Cancer

Medical costs include the costs of diagnosis; in-patient treatment and care; outpatient treatment and care; and drugs. This makes up 53% of the $286 billion (US) – worldwide cancer costs, excluding research expenditures.

Lost income due to cancer morbidity associated with new cancer cases, makes up another 24% of the global 2009 total. The remainder is comprised of the costs of transportation to and from medical providers; the costs of alternative and homeopathic treatments and care; and the value of time associated with informal care-giving.

$217 billion (US) in medical and non-medical costs, $19 billion (US) for research and $69 billion (US) in lost productivity.  In addition, we break new ground by determining how much spending would have to increase to achieve a global expenditure standard, based on per case medical costs, in the country with the lowest case fatality rate, for each cancer investigated. The overall cost to achieve that global standard is $217 billion (US).

A full copy of the study can be found at

About the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit

The LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit, which takes place August 24-26, 2009 in Dublin, Ireland, is the landmark event of the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign, an initiative to urgently address the global cancer burden. This unprecedented gathering of 500 strong, includes world leaders, corporations, non-governmental organizations and 300 advocates from more than 65 countries.

The Summit will introduce new commitments to cancer control by bringing together key stakeholders, representing more than 65 countries from across the globe. The Summit will ignite a unified global movement while providing attendees with the opportunity to connect with other advocates, network, gain media exposure and access tools and resources to help them mobilize within their own communities.

In September 2008, Lance Armstrong, LAF founder and chairman, cancer survivor and champion cyclist, announced the Foundation’s commitment to making cancer a global priority at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York. The LAF made this commitment after its worldwide research, conducted over 18 months, revealed widespread misconceptions, stigmatization and lack of awareness associated with cancer.

In response, the LAF established the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign to urgently address the burden of cancer worldwide and to support the 28 million people living with cancer around the globe. Cancer kills more people every year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. It is estimated that cancer will be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2010.

With such staggering statistics, the LAF recognized that a global challenge like cancer required a global movement. And so it began urging world leaders, leading cancer organizations and cancer survivors to join together by making commitments to take action in their communities to reduce the burden of cancer.

The LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign has broken new ground with successes to date in Australia, California, Mexico, Italy, the Tour de France and Ireland. For more information on the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign, please visit

About the Lance Armstrong Foundation:

At the Lance Armstrong Foundation, we fight for the 28 million people around the world living with cancer today. There can be – and should be – life after cancer for more people. That’s why we kick in at the moment of diagnosis, giving people the resources and support they need to fight cancer head-on.

We find innovative ways to raise awareness, fund research and to remove the stigma regarding cancer, that many survivors face. We connect people and communities to drive social change and we call for state, national and world leaders to help fight this disease. Anyone, anywhere can join our fight against cancer. Join us at


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