Cancer Causes ¥2.86 Tril. Annual Economic Losses for Japanese People

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A man smokes in a smoking area in Saga in March 2022.

The annual economic burden of cancer on society is estimated to be about ¥2.86 trillion, of which about ¥1 trillion was due to potentially preventable cancers, according to the National Cancer Center (NCC) and other organizations.

The estimates announced Tuesday stated, “If appropriate preventive measures are taken, such as smoking cessation and vaccination, not only can individual lives be saved, but the economic burden can also be reduced.”

This is the first study to examine the economic impact of potentially preventable cancers, the NCC said.

The research team estimated the medical costs and work losses associated with work absenteeism and death for a total of about 4 million cancer patients nationwide who received treatment in 2015.

As a result, the team estimated that the total economic burden to society, including medical costs and work loss, was about ¥2.86 trillion. Of this, the financial burden imposed on society by cancers that can be prevented amounted to about ¥1.02 trillion.

By factor, the economic burden arising from infection was the largest at about ¥480 billion, followed by active smoking at about ¥430 billion, alcohol consumption at about ¥170 billion, physical inactivity at about ¥34 billion and excessive weight at about ¥19 billion.

Among infections, the societal burden caused by gastric cancer due to Helicobacter pylori is about ¥210 billion, cervical cancer from human papillomavirus (HPV) about ¥64 billion and liver cancer from hepatitis viruses about ¥61 billion.

There are cancer prevention measures such as eradication treatment for H. pylori, vaccination to prevent infection with HPV and drug treatment for hepatitis viruses.

About 1 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year and about 380,000 people die from the disease, according to the latest cancer statistics. Cancer is the most common cause of death among Japanese people.

“We have been able to demonstrate the importance of regular cancer screening, HPV vaccination and tobacco control from an economic point of view,” said Eiko Saito, a senior researcher at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, and a member of the research team.