Cancer costs $895 billion annually. Comparatively, heart disease costs $753 billion. Nothing else comes close, with traffic accidents and diabetes each costing about $204 billion.

“The price for one year of life increased to $139,100 in 2005 and $207,000 in 2013.”

The biggest financial impact is in terms of loss of life and productivity, in which cancer accounts for 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) losses. The AICR estimates Americans lost 83 million years of healthy life because of cancer deaths and disabilities in 2008.

More than half a million Americans die of cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., every year.

To breakdown the direct healthcare costs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) estimated cancer cost Americans $88.7 billion in 2011. Of that cost:

  • 50% came from hospital outpatient or doctor office visits
  • 35% came from inpatient hospital stays
  • 11% came from prescription drugs

And it’s getting more expensive.

A 2011 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute determined the cost of all cancer care in the U.S. totaled $124.5 billion in 2010. The researchers projected the total cost would rise to $157.7 billion by 2020. The projected cost increase by phase of treatment is displayed in the table below.

Cost of Cancer Care in Billions of 2010 Dollars
Initial Continuing Last
2010 $40.46 $46.64 $37.45
2020 $48.31 $61.37 $48.07
Increase 19.4% 31.6% 28.3%

There doesn’t seem to be a good reason for the increase in cost though.

A 2015 National Bureau of Economic Research study found anticancer drug prices at launch increased by 10% ever year between 1995 and 2013, about an $8,500 annual increase. That’s after an adjustment for inflation and survival benefits.

When calculating the average cost for one extra year of life, the researchers determined patients and insurers paid $54,100 in 1995. The price for one year of life increased to $139,100 in 2005 and $207,000 in 2013.

Another study (2014) published in The Lancet found the costs of cancer are already unaffordable in many countries. In the U.S., even those with very good insurance coverage incur out-of-pocket costs or experience overexposure to harmful treatments.

Many people have no idea what to expect financially when their doctor gives them or a loved one the heartbreaking diagnosis.

Total Cost of Cancer Treatment

On an individual level, a cancer diagnosis isn’t limited to physical and emotional hardship. It can put someone in a hard spot financially too.

People may have to choose between more successful expensive treatments and less effective, affordable treatments.

Each person’s cost to treat cancer is different. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), factors to treat cancer include:

  • The type of treatment.
  • The length of treatment.
  • The location of the treatment.
  • The type of insurance coverage.

For people with health insurance, the concern might not be as great. But some insurance plans won’t cover the most expensive, sometimes most-necessary treatments.

Sadly, many cancer patients have to spend time and energy working out financial issues before treatment even begins. Others face financial struggles during treatment, and almost everyone spends precious energy trying to manage their money while recovering from treatment.

Major healthcare costs to consider include:

  • Hospital and clinic visits.
  • Medicine and prescription drugs.
  • Lab tests.
  • Treatments.
  • Surgeries.
  • Home health services.

Cost of Surgery

Physically removing a tumor during surgery is one of the top ways to treat cancer. Doctors can use surgery to prevent, diagnose, remove, or debulk (remove as much as possible) cancer. They have a variety of methods to do so too, according to the MayoClinic. Surgery methods include:

  • Cryosurgery: freezing cancer cells to destroy them.
  • Electrosurgery: killing cancer cells with high-frequency current.
  • Laser surgery: killing cancer cells with beams of intense light.
  • Mohs surgery: removing cancer cells layer by layer.
  • Laparoscopic surgery: minimally-invasive surgery using small incisions.
  • Robotic surgery: use of 3-D imaging and computers to operate surgical tools.

The costs per surgery vary greatly, depending on the hospital, insurance coverage and type of procedure.

A 2014 study examining the costs of surgery involving various types of cancer found average costs ranging from $14,161 to $56,587. The costs included admissions, readmissions, physician services and other costs (outpatient visits, hospice care, home health agencies or medical equipment).

Average Cost of Cancer Surgery
Procedure Cost
Colectomy (colon) $31,738
Cystectomy (bladder) $42,386
Pancreatectomy (pancreas) $56,587
Proctectomy (rectum) $33,759
Prostatectomy (prostate) $14,161
Pulmonary lobectomy $39,412

Cost of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is another way to treat cancer. It involves chemicals that kill fast-growing cells. Since cancer cells grow more quickly than other body cells, doctors often use chemotherapy to treat the disease.

According to an Avalere Health study which analyzed three years of data, the adjusted (based on age, sex and prior cancer history) cost of chemotherapy differed depending on location – in a doctor’s office or hospital’s outpatient department (HOPD).

Average Cost of Chemotherapy
Office HOPD
1 Month $10,764 $13,828
6 Months $49,062 $61,661
12 Months $66,826 $102,395

The costs also differed depending on the type of cancer. The most expensive was colon cancer, which cost $45,997 in an office and $46,220 in an HOPD. The average costs for all lengths of treatment (averaging 3.8 months in an office and 3.4 months in an HOPD) ranged from $28,177 in an office to $34,973 in an HOPD.

Cost of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is another form of expensive cancer treatment. It involves the use of intense energy beams, usually X-rays, to kill genetic material. The radiation kills both healthy cells and cancer cells, so the length of treatment is usually shorter than chemotherapy.

The Avalere Health study also analyzed the adjusted cost of radiation therapies at different locations.

Average Cost of Radiation Therapy
Office HOPD
1 Month $11,472 $13,209
2 Months $23,305 $24,150
3 Months $38,732 $35,761

The costs of radiation therapy also differed by cancer type. The most expensive was prostate cancer, which cost $37,472 in an office and $29,800 in an HOPD. The average costs for all lengths of treatment (averaging 2.1 months in an office and 1.9 months in an HOPD) ranged from $25,144 in an office to $23,756 in an HOPD.

Most people think of healthcare costs when they think of the cost of cancer, but there are other costs that many don’t consider.

Dr Mercola on Melanoma

  • The rising rates of melanoma documented over the last three decades are not due to sun exposure as often stated; researchers instead believe they are due to an increase in diagnoses of non-cancerous lesions classified, misleadingly, as “stage 1 melanoma”
  • Exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is protective against melanoma — or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective
  • Optimizing your vitamin D levels through proper sun exposure or use of a safe tanning bed can reduce your risk of skin cancer and as many as 16 different types of cancer
  • The sun is your source of vitamin D because when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water-soluble and can travel freely in your bloodstream, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements.

Diagnostic drift, according to the study, refers to a hefty increase in disease that is being fueled by non-cancerous lesions.

In fact, during the study period from 1991 to 2004, there were nearly 4,000 cases of melanoma included in the report, with an annual increase of 9.39 to 13.91 cases per 100,000 per year.

The researchers revealed that, rather than being fueled by increasing exposure to sunlight as is commonly suggested, the increased incidence was almost entirely due to minimal, stage 1 disease.

They noted:

“There was no change in the combined incidence of the other stages of the disease, and the overall mortality only increased from 2.16 to 2.54 cases per 100,000 per year … We therefore conclude that the large increase in reported incidence is likely to be due to diagnostic drift, which classifies benign lesions as stage 1 melanoma.”

In other words, people are being diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer even when they have only a minimal, non-cancerous lesion, and these diagnoses appear to be skewing disease rates significantly. Further, adding even more credence to the growing body of evidence showing sun exposure is not the primary cause of melanoma, the researchers noted that the distribution of the lesions reported did not correspond to the sites of lesions caused by sun exposure.

They concluded:

“These findings should lead to a reconsideration of the treatment of ‘early’ lesions, a search for better diagnostic methods to distinguish them from truly malignant melanomas, re-evaluation of the role of ultraviolet radiation and recommendations for protection from it, as well as the need for a new direction in the search for the cause of melanoma.”

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that influences virtually every cell in your body, and is easily one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. So I want to stress again that if you are shunning all sun exposure, you are missing out on this natural cancer protection.

Your organs can convert the vitamin D in your bloodstream into calcitriol, which is the hormonal or activated version of vitamin D. Your organs then use it to repair damage, including damage from cancer cells and tumors. Vitamin D’s protective effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

This applies not only to skin cancer but other types of cancer as well. Theories linking vitamin D to certain cancers have been tested and confirmed in more than 200 epidemiological studies, and understanding of its physiological basis stems from more than 2,500 laboratory studies, according to epidemiologist Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Here are just a few highlights into some of the most noteworthy findings:

  • Some 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancers could be prevented each year if vitamin D levels among populations worldwide were increased, according to previous research by Dr. Garland and colleagues.
  • Optimizing your vitamin D levels could help you to prevent at least 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers.
  • A large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled study on vitamin D and cancer showed that vitamin D can cut overall cancer risk by as much as 60 percent. This was such groundbreaking news that the Canadian Cancer Society has actually begun endorsing the vitamin as a cancer-prevention therapy.
  • Light-skinned women who had high amounts of long-term sun exposure
    • had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer (cancer that spreads beyond your breast) as women with lower amounts of regular sun exposure, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
    • A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths — which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States — could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.
  • In 2007 the recommended level was between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Since then, the optimal vitamin D level has been raised to 50-70 ng/ml, and when treating cancer or heart disease, as high as 70-100 ng/ml.
  • Melanoma skin cancer is the deadliest form, but far more common are non-melanoma skin cancers, which impact millions of Americans every year.

    If you or someone you love is affected, a cream containing eggplant extract, known as BEC and BEC5, appears to cure and eliminate most non-melanoma skin cancers in several weeks time. Unlike conventional skin-cancer treatment, which is often surgery, the eggplant-extract cream leaves no scarring and no visible sign a tumor or lesion was ever present. The eggplant extract appears to be exceptionally safe and only kills cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells untouched, and causes only minor side effects, such as itching and burning.

    The leading researcher in this area today is Dr. Bill E. Cham, who reported as early as 1991 in Cancer Letters that:

    “A cream formulation containing high concentrations (10%) of a standard mixture of solasodine glycosides (BEC) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of malignant and benign human skin tumors.

    We now report that a preparation … which contains very low concentrations of BEC (0.005%) is effective in the treatment of keratoses, basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the skin of humans. In an open study, clinical and histological observations indicated that all lesions (56 keratoses, 39 BCCs and 29 SCCs) treated with [the preparation] had regressed.”

    Dr. Cham’s latest study was published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine this year. The paper includes two impressive case reports of 60-something men who were suffering from large basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which had plagued them for years.  The results upon treatment with a cream formulation of BEC (eggplant extract) twice a day are astounding, and you can view the pictures here.

    Unfortunately, simply eating eggplant, tomatoes, peppers or similar veggies, while beneficial for many reasons, will not induce this same effect because the active components are not able to effectively penetrate your cells. This requires the addition of glycosides, molecules with various simple sugars attached to them that can latch on to receptors found on skin cancer cells.

  • What’s even better than an inexpensive, safe and natural cure for skin cancer is, of course, preventing it in the first place. Your body is made to be in the sun, and, when done properly, sun exposure will be one of the best ways you can help reduce your risk of skin, and many other forms of, cancer. Along with optimizing your vitamin D levels, the carotenoid astaxanthinhas also piqued the interest of researchers due to its ability to reduce signs of aging by helping protect your skin from sun damage. I personally take 8 mg every day to help limit any potential damage from sun exposure as most of the year I am able to spend one to two hours a day in the sun.

    Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another useful strategy to avoid sun damage to your skin, as fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn.

    Fresh, raw vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.

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  • Connie’s comments: Lessen alcohol intake, avoid fungus and molds and eat whole foods rich in Vit A, D, C and E (for the skin).