International Health News

Cancer prevention increases health care costs

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS. About 70 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands in 1988 were caused by cancer and heart disease. Yet healthcare expenditures on these diseases amounted to only 17 per cent of all healthcare costs. In contrast mental disorders and joint and bone diseases caused less than 2 per cent of all deaths, but accounted for 35 per cent of healthcare costs. Medical researchers at the Erasmus University have pondered these facts and conclude that preventing cancer and heart disease will actually increase healthcare costs because people who do not die from these diseases will live longer and be more likely to develop other disorders which are far more expensive to treat. They point out that the aim of prevention is to keep people healthy for as long as possible not to save money on the healthcare system. However, from a cost point of view it would make more sense to focus on preventing mental disorders and joint and bone disorders than on preventing cancer and heart disease. The researchers conclude with the startling statement that "There is no evidence that healthcare costs are increasing because citizens live unhealthier lives. In fact, quite the contrary would seem to be the case."
Bonneux, Luc, et al. Preventing fatal diseases increases healthcare costs: cause elimination life table approach. British Medical Journal, Vol. 316, January 3, 1998, pp. 26-9

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