Cancer costs the UK economy £15.8bn a year

An Oxford University study has found that the annual cost of all cancers to the UK economy is £15.8bn.

The cost of lung cancer at £2.4bn each year is far higher than that for any other cancer. This highlights the continuing need to tackle smoking, which causes more than eight in 10 lung cancers in the UK.

The total economic costs of other cancers are: bowel cancer – £1.6bn; breast cancer – £1.5bn; and prostate cancer – £0.8bn. The research is presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Liverpool today.

Half (£7.6bn) of the total economic cost of cancer to the UK is due to premature deaths and time off work, followed by healthcare costs (£5.6bn) and unpaid care to cancer patients by friends and family (£2.6bn).

Healthcare spending represents a cost of £90 per person in the UK population.

Research author Dr Jose Leal from the Health Economics Research Centre at the University of Oxford, said: 'Our research shows that cancers impact the economy as a whole – and not just the health service. Premature deaths, time off work and unpaid care by friends and family account for 64 per cent of all cancer costs (£10.2bn) in the UK in 2009. These wider costs should be taken into account when deciding research priorities. Cancers with the highest economic cost could offer the highest expected returns from investment in research.'

Dr Leal adds: 'Lung cancer costs more than any other cancer, mainly because of potential wage losses due to premature deaths from people in employment – about 60 per cent of the total economic costs – and high health care costs. The death rate from the disease remains high at 56 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK population annually, and almost a quarter of these occur before retirement.'

Dr Jane Cope, director of the NCRI, said: 'These figures remind us that cancer has a cost, not just in professional healthcare but also in loss of earnings for patients, and for loved ones who give up work to look after them. Since 86 per cent of lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking, we can reduce these financial and societal costs by helping people to stop smoking.'