Open Access Research article

The cost of lost productivity due to premature cancer-related mortality: an economic measure of the cancer burden

Paul A Hanly1* and Linda Sharp2

Author Affiliations

1 National College of Ireland, Mayor Street, Dublin 1, Ireland

2 National Cancer Registry Ireland, Cork Airport Business Park, Kinsale Road, Cork, Ireland

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:224  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-224

Published: 26 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Most measures of the cancer burden take a public health perspective. Cancer also has a significant economic impact on society. To assess this economic burden, we estimated years of potential productive life lost (YPPLL) and costs of lost productivity due to premature cancer-related mortality in Ireland.

Methods

All cancers combined and the 10 sites accounting for most deaths in men and in women were considered. To compute YPPLL, deaths in 5-year age-bands between 15 and 64 years were multiplied by average working-life expectancy. Valuation of costs, using the human capital approach, involved multiplying YPPLL by age-and-gender specific gross wages, and adjusting for unemployment and workforce participation. Sensitivity analyses were conducted around retirement age and wage growth, labour force participation, employment and discount rates, and to explore the impact of including household production and caring costs. Costs were expressed in €2009.

Results

Total YPPLL was lower in men than women (men = 10,873; women = 12,119). Premature cancer-related mortality costs were higher in men (men: total cost = €332 million, cost/death = €290,172, cost/YPPLL = €30,558; women: total cost = €177 million, cost/death = €159,959, cost/YPPLL = €14,628). Lung cancer had the highest premature mortality cost (€84.0 million; 16.5% of total costs), followed by cancers of the colorectum (€49.6 million; 9.7%), breast (€49.4 million; 9.7%) and brain & CNS (€42.4 million: 8.3%). The total economic cost of premature cancer-related mortality in Ireland amounted to €509.5 million or 0.3% of gross domestic product. An increase of one year in the retirement age increased the total all-cancer premature mortality cost by 9.9% for men and 5.9% for women. The inclusion of household production and caring costs increased the total cost to €945.7 million.

Conclusion

Lost productivity costs due to cancer-related premature mortality are significant. The higher premature mortality cost in males than females reflects higher wages and rates of workforce participation. Productivity costs provide an alternative perspective on the cancer burden on society and may inform cancer control policy decisions.

Keywords:
Productivity costs; Years of life lost; Cancer; Economic burden; Ireland