Bad habits cost U.S. $18.4B

Global cancer study attributes four bad habits as leading cost drivers

Treating cancer is costly. A recent study indicates that if four bad habits were reduced, the United States could save nearly $13.4 billion in cancer treatment costs.

As part of GE Healthcare’s GetFit Cancer Prevention campaign, the company hired GfK Bridgehead to conduct research on the attributable costs of bad habits on the development of cancer.

Researchers targeted the most prevalent cancers across the globe – breast, lung and colon – and calculated the cancer costs attributable to smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, India, China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Using public data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and an extensive literature review of published peer-reviewed clinical trials and studies, the researchers determined that smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and physical inactivity accounted for $33.9 billion annually in costs related to cancer on a global scale. The U.S. accounts for 54 percent, or $18.4 billion, of those costs.

“There is a lot of literature and discussion in the news media about the association of bad habits to cancer, but it was really eye-opening to me to see the costs that could be realized if one were to change their bad habits,” said Meghan Gavaghan, a senior consultant with GfK Bridgehead who served as the project manager and lead researcher on the global bad habits research project.

While the influence of the healthcare industry on the general public’s lifestyle choices may be limited, healthcare companies can have some impact. They can promote wellness within their own business environments, Gavaghan said, for example.

And because these bad habits are only part of the cancer equation, Gavaghan said, biopharmaceutical companies have an opportunity. They can “continue to look for the next best treatment for cancer,” she said, “because even if we do amend all these bad habits, we’re still going to have the need for better, more-targeted cancer therapies.”

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