Cancer HC Statistics

The cancer tax

An ambitious paper by Chen et al. (2023) published last week aim to estimate the economic burden of cancer across 204 countries between 2020 and 2050 . The authors find that cancer’s economic burden is equivalent to an annual tax of 0.55% of global GDP.

The full results are below.

The estimated global economic cost of cancers from 2020 to 2050 is $25.2 trillion in international dollars (at constant 2017 prices), equivalent to an annual tax of 0.55% on global gross domestic product. The 5 cancers with the highest economic costs are tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer (15.4%); colon and rectum cancer (10.9%); breast cancer (7.7%); liver cancer (6.5%); and leukemia (6.3%). China and the US face the largest economic costs of cancers in absolute terms, accounting for 24.1% and 20.8% of the total global burden, respectively. Although 75.1% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, their share of the economic cost of cancers is lower at 49.5%. The relative contribution of treatment costs to the total economic cost of cancers is greater in high-income countries than in low-income countries.

The data used by the authors is summarized as follows:

The definition of each cancer is from the Global Burden of Disease Study cancer categories. We considered data for 204 countries and territories and for a set of World Bank regions, representing 99.7% of the world’s population. The GDP and saving rates are from the World Bank World Development Indicators database and the World Economic Outlook database. Mortality and morbidity data are from Global Burden of Disease 2019. Human capital is based on the educational attainment projections of Barro and Lee  and workforce experience according to a mincerian specification. The estimated parameters for the mincerian specification are taken from Psacharopoulos and Patrinos for educational level and from Heckman et al. for experience. Physical capital data are from the Penn World Table with the value for the output elasticity of physical capital following standard economic estimates.

Cancer treatment cost was estimated from Dieleman et al. (2020), who estimated national-level spending (i.e., public, private and out of pocket) for different conditions after considering comorbidities and who estimated that cancer spending accounted for 4.6% of total health expenditures in the US.

Do read the full article here.


  • Chen S, Cao Z, Prettner K, Kuhn M, Yang J, Jiao L, Wang Z, Li W, Geldsetzer P, Bärnighausen T, Bloom DE. Estimates and Projections of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers in 204 Countries and Territories From 2020 to 2050. JAMA oncology. 2023 Feb 23.
  • Mortality and Morbidity: GBD 2019 Diseases and Injuries Collaborators.  Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990-2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019.  Lancet. 2020;396(10258):1204-1222. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30925-9
  • GDP and Savings
  • Human Capital and Workforce Experience
    • Barro  RJ, Lee  JW.  A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010.  J Dev Econ. 2013;2013(104):184-198. published Online First: Feb 2016. doi:10.1016/j.jdeveco.2012.10.001
    • Psacharopoulos  G, Patrinos  HA.  Returns to investment in education: a decennial review of the global literature.   Educ Econ. 2018;26(5):445-458. doi:10.1080/09645292.2018.1484426
    • Heckman  JJ, Lochner  LJ, Todd  PE. Earnings functions, rates of return and treatment effects: the mincer equation and beyond. In: Hanushek  E, Welch  F, eds.  Handbook of the Economics of Education. Elsevier; 2006:307-458.
  • Physical Capital
  • Cancer treatment costs
    • Dieleman  JL, Cao  J, Chapin  A,  et al.  US health care spending by payer and health condition, 1996-2016.   JAMA. 2020;323(9):863-884. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0734