EU-wide cancer cost more than £100 billion a year

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer costs the European Union 126bn euro (£107bn) a year, a UK study has revealed.

The research looked at the cost of drugs and health care; earnings lost through illness or premature death; and the cost of care from friends and relatives in the 27 countries of the EU in 2009.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and King's College London published their findings in The Lancet Oncology, which show that Germany, France, Italy and the UK account for more than two-thirds of the total cost, spending 83bn euro (£70bn) between them.

Overall, some 51bn euro (£43bn) was spent on health care, including doctors' time and the cost of drugs.

Earnings lost through illness or premature death accounted for 52bn euro (£44bn) while the care provided by families and friends was valued at 23bn euro (£19.5bn).

The study is the first EU-wide analysis to show the economic impact of cancer.

Lung cancer had the highest overall cost, making up just over a tenth of the total. But health care costs were highest for breast cancer, largely due to a higher rate of spending on drugs to tackle this form of the disease.

The overall economic burden of cancer was lower than that caused by dementia and cardiovascular disease.

Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez, from the Health Economics Research Centre at the University of Oxford, said: "By estimating the economic burden of several diseases it will be possible to help allocate public research funding towards the diseases with the highest burden and highest expected returns for that investment."

Sara Osborne, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said "The financial impact that cancer has on the economy across Europe due to people dying prematurely from the disease and time off work remains a huge burden."

She said: "This study reinforces why research is vital to improve our understanding of the causes of cancer - so that we lessen the impact of the disease and develop better ways to prevent and treat the illness.

"We also need to understand why the UK's cancer mortality rates remain higher than many EU countries despite a similar spend on cancer care."

"With lung cancer having the highest cost, these results further highlight the need for the introduction of plain, standardised tobacco packs to help reduce the appeal of tobacco to young people."

Copyright Press Association 2013

References

  • Luengo-Fernandez R. et al. (2013). Economic burden of cancer across the European Union: a population-based cost analysis, The Lancet Oncology, DOI: