Study finds obesity-related cancer treatment costs are twice that of other cancers

Obesity-related cancers now account for 40 percent of all new cancer cases in the U.S., a 10 percent increase from 2014. A new study by University of Florida researchers finds that the rise in these cases has a significant economic burden.

In a paper published in the journal Value in Health, the scientists report that patients with an obesity-related cancer incurred a higher mean annual total health expenditure ($21,503) than those with another cancer type ($13,120). Obesity-related cancer accounted for nearly 43.5 percent of total direct cancer care expenditures, estimated at $35.9 billion in 2015.

“The economic burden of obesity-related cancer in the U.S. is substantial and this burden is expected to rise as the prevalence of obesity increases,” said the study’s lead author Young-Rock Hong, a doctoral student in health services research at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. “In addition to obesity prevention and management among the general population, multifaceted strategies, including education and sustained intervention programs to address obesity among cancer survivors, may be needed to reduce the economic burden.”

The team also found the prevalence of obesity-related cancer was higher among racial and ethnic minorities as well as younger populations, particularly between the ages of 18 to 34.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 2008 to 2015, estimating annual health expenditures by cancer type. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified 13 cancers linked with obesity. These include esophageal, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, stomach, kidney, liver, ovarian, pancreatic, thyroid, and postmenopausal breast cancers.

“Relative to other obesity-associated health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, fewer efforts have been made to evaluate the economic impact of obesity on cancer survivorship, including potential short-and long-term cost savings resulting from obesity prevention or treatment interventions among patients with cancer,” Hong said. “Future studies should address these questions.”