World’s Costliest Disease is Cancer, According to Report

A new report put together by the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests that cancer places more of a burden on the global economy than any other illness. This cost is not based on the amount of money used to treat the illness, but rather on economic cost of lives lost or disabled by cancer.

Ultimately, the ACS estimates that cancer cost the global economy $895 billion in 2008. To put things in perspective, that figure accounts for approximately 1.5 percent of the world’s total gross domestic product.

To put it another way, cancer leads to a higher loss of labor production due to death or disability of the global population than any other illness. This fact is largely due to two main facts:

1. Cancer kills far more people worldwide than virtually any other illness

2. Cancer affects people at a young enough age to more dramatically affect labor production

Presently, cancer is the number two leading cause of death worldwide, right behind heart disease. However, predictions suggest that cancer may surpass heart disease sometime this year. As of 2008, approximately 7.6 million people died from cancer.

Experts cite the use of tobacco and obesity as leading causes for the rise in cancer cases. Poor cancer treatment in low and middle-income countries also dramatically contributes the total negative effects of cancer on society.

The ACS, along with other global organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), is strongly concerned that cancer deaths will continue to rise unless new initiatives are put in place. Specifically, the ACS calls for improved focus on fighting cancers in developing nations.

Of the 7.6 million people who died from cancer in 2008, approximately 66 percent occurred in low and middle-income countries. Through the simple implementation of early detection and treatment in these nations, some predictions suggest 4 million deaths could be prevented each year.

To spur improvements in these key areas, the ACS suggests creating initiatives that build global awareness of how cancer affects developing countries. Of course, funding programs that improve detection and treatment of cancer in developing nations is also recommended.