Cancer deaths will cost Ireland €73 billion over the next 20 years

A new paper published in the journal BMC Cancer by researchers at the National Cancer Registry estimated that deaths from cancer over the next 20 years will cost the Irish economy €73 billion in lost productivity.

When people stop working because of cancer this has a cost not only for the individual and their family, but also for society. This societal cost is called lost productivity. Estimates of lost productivity can be used as a measure of cancer burden to inform policy making, service planning and research funding. 

There will be 233,000 deaths from cancer in Ireland between 2011 and 2030. The study found these deaths will result in lost productivity valued at €73 billion; €13 billion in lost paid work and €60 billion in lost unpaid work. Even if only the loss of paid work is considered, 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.

The study found that if Ireland could reduce cancer deaths by 1% per year then Ireland would save €8.5 billion over 20 years. 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.

This research demonstrates the important impact of cancer on the Irish economy, and provides an additional perspective for policy makers to consider when prioritizing funding for health care services in the future.  

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