The burden of illness of cancer: economic cost and quality of life

Annu Rev Public Health. 2001:22:91-113. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.22.1.91.


Cancer is a major public health issue and represents a significant burden of disease. In this chapter, we analyze the main measures of burden of disease as relate to cancer. Specifically, we review incidence and mortality, years of life lost from cancer, and cancer prevalence. We also discuss the economic burden of cancer, including cost of illness, phase-specific and long-term costs, and indirect costs. We then examine the impact of cancer on health-related quality of life as measured in global terms (disability-adjusted life years and quality-adjusted life years) and using evaluation-oriented applications of health-related quality of life scales. Throughout, we note the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches to measuring the burden of cancer as well as the methodologic challenges that persist in burden-of-illness research. We conclude with a discussion of the research agenda to improve our understanding of the burden of cancer and of illness more generally.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Planning*
  • Humans
  • Medical Record Linkage
  • Neoplasms* / economics
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Quality of Life*
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology