A paper I worked on at the National Cancer Registry Ireland has been published in the journal BMC Cancer. Together with my collaborators, we estimated that deaths from cancer over the next 20 years will cost the Irish economy €73 billion in lost productivity.
When people die from cancer, society loses their contribution to the economy through paid work, housework, caring for relatives and volunteering. There will be 233,000 deaths from cancer in Ireland between 2011 and 2030. We found that these deaths will result in lost productivity valued at €73 billion; €13 billion in lost paid work and €60 billion in lost unpaid activities. This is almost double the lost productivity from cardiovascular disease in Ireland.
Lung, colorectal and breast cancer were the most expensive cancers overall, because they are the most common. However, when the number of people effected was taken into account, cancers of the testes, cervix and brain were the most expensive because they affect younger people who are often working. We know cancer places a large burden on individual patients and their families. This work shows that there is also a burden for the Irish economy. By estimating how much productivity is lost because of cancer we can inform policy makers and health services about priorities for cancer care and research in the future.
The study found that if Ireland could reduce cancer deaths by 1% per year then the economy would save €8.5 billion over 20 years. The authors suggest that a 1% reduction in cancer deaths could be achieved through improved treatments, reducing smoking rates, and ongoing participation in screening programs for breast, colon, and cervical cancer, as well as the roll out of the HPV vaccine.
The National Cancer Registry Ireland collects data on cancer incidence, treatment and survival in Ireland. They carry out research, such as this work, to help improve cancer outcomes and reduce the cancer burden in Ireland.