The Global Economic Burden of Preventable Cancer Deaths


In a joint study carried out by The American Cancer Society and LIVESTRONG®, Cancer is the world’s top “economic killer” as well as likely taking over heart disease as the leading cause of death globally. About 7.6 million people died of cancer in 2008 and about 12.4 million new cases are diagnosed each year.

Cancer cost is very high

The study reveals that cancer costs the world economy nearly $3 trillion every year due to premature death and disability. The economic toll in 2008 was $895 billion, equivalent to 1.5% of the world’s gross domestic product. Cancer costs more in lost productivity and mortality than AIDS and other communicable diseases, such as malaria and the flu.

Heart disease was found to have an economic impact of $753 billion.


While communicable diseases have been reduced by vaccines and other improved treatment options, many chronic diseases are caused by lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use, obesity, and lack of physical activity. For example, according to data from the National Cancer Institute, 30-35% of all cancer deaths could be prevented by physical activity and eating a healthy diet.

Lung cancer is another potentially avoidable disease. Of the total $895 billion, lung and related cancers account for $180 billion. It is estimated that 8 million people will die prematurely because of tobacco smoking by 2030. Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than nonsmokers.

Rachel Nugent of the Center for Global Development said that chronic, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes account for more than 60% of deaths worldwide, but less than 1-3% of public and private funding for global health.

“Cancer's human toll, in terms of suffering and death, is tragic and largely preventable,” says John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society. “We now know that without immediate intervention, the burden of cancer will grow enormously in low- and middle income countries, with demands on health care systems and economic costs that are more than these developing economies can bear.”