The economic burden of cancer care in Canada: a population-based cost study

CMAJ Open. 2018 Jan 4;6(1):E1-E10. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20170144. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Background: Resource and cost issues are a growing concern in health care. Thus, it is important to have an accurate estimate of the economic burden of care. Previous work has estimated the economic burden of cancer care for Canada; however, there is some concern this estimate is too low. The objective of this analysis was to provide a comprehensive revised estimate of this burden.

Methods: We used a case-control prevalence-based approach to estimate direct annual cancer costs from 2005 to 2012. We used patient-level administrative health care data from Ontario to correctly attribute health care costs to cancer. We employed the net cost method (cost difference between patients with cancer and control subjects without cancer) to account for costs directly and indirectly related to cancer and its sequelae. Using average patient-level cost estimates from Ontario, we applied proportions from national health expenditures data to obtain the economic burden of cancer care for Canada. All costs were adjusted to 2015 Canadian dollars.

Results: Costs of cancer care rose steadily over our analysis period, from $2.9 billion in 2005 to $7.5 billion in 2012, mostly owing to the increase in costs of hospital-based care. Most expenditures for health care services increased over time, with chemotherapy and radiation therapy expenditures accounting for the largest increases over the study period. Our cost estimates were larger than those in the Economic Burden of Illness in Canada 2005-2008 report for every year except 2005 and 2006.

Interpretation: The economic burden of cancer care in Canada is substantial. Further research is needed to understand how the economic burden of cancer compares to that of other diseases.