The cost and burden of cancer in the European Union 1995–2014

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: There is an intense debate about the cost of cancer and the value of new treatments. However, there is limited data on the cost of cancer in the European Union (EU) and how costs relate to the burden of disease. This paper presents new estimates on the development of the cost of cancer in the EU 1995–2014, with a focus on the major cost components: total health expenditure, cancer drugs, and production loss due to premature mortality.

Methods: Data on overall health expenditure were combined with national disease estimates to derive cancer-specific health expenditure. Data on drug sales were obtained from IMS Health, and epidemiological data were used to calculate life years lost due to cancer.

Findings: Health expenditure on cancer increased continuously from €35.7 billion in 1995 to €83.2 billion in 2014 in the EU and spending on cancer drugs from €7.6 billion in 2005 to €19.1 billion in 2014 (current prices). Yet the share of total health expenditure devoted to cancer was mostly constant (around 6 per cent). While expenditures on cancer drugs increased in both absolute and relative terms, other expenditures were stable or decreased, despite increases in cancer incidence driven by a growing and ageing population. Reductions in cancer mortality during working age resulted in decreasing production loss due to premature mortality.

Interpretation: Health spending on cancer as a share of total health expenditure is rather low and stable despite the growing incidence and relative burden of cancer. Problems to reallocate funding in health care systems under economic pressure may be one explanation and shifting costs from inpatient to ambulatory care another.


External organisations
  • IHE – The Swedish Institute for Health Economics
  • Stockholm School of Economics
  • Skåne University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162–170
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct
Publication categoryResearch