Anyone who has dealt with cancer—afflicting herself or loved ones—knows that the disease is just about as expensive as it is deadly. Now the American Cancer Society has examined its economic impact on a global scale, and the diagnosis isn’t good: the 2008 economic loss (calculated through disability and years of life lost) from cancer was $895 billion.
Chronic Diseases Are On The Rise
The Associated Press says that the ACS will soon present these findings at a global cancer conference in China, along with the conclusion that chronic diseases are on the rise, while the rates of contagious disease decline. Chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes cause over 60% of deaths, and the World Health Organization expects that cancer—which is diagnosed in about 7.6 million new cases each year—will soon outstrip heart disease to be the world’s most fatal affliction.
Modern Lifestyles Contribute To Growing Cancer Rates
The American Cancer Society found that due to more effective vaccines, as well as smoking and obesity, chronic diseases have become only more common. On average, smokers die about 15 years before non-smokers (thank you, Big Tobacco), and lung and related cancers alone cost us about $180 billion. Much of the responsibility for this change in disease profile falls squarely on our own shoulders, and hints of a black lining to a silver cloud. Now that we have most contagious diseases under control, we’re living long enough to develop chronic disease. But cancer doesn’t quite fit the mold: While heart disease traditionally struck later in life, cancer starts early.
Cancer Is Personal As Well As Global
There is very little to be taken as actionable from these findings. Don’t smoke? No news there. Avoid obesity as best as possible? Obvious. To a society all about fixing and altering, cancer’s scariest characteristic is our inability to cure it. Because as much as we want to condemn cancer for its impact on our global productivity and economy (how dare it rob us of workers!), and as much as we want to view the number-one spot on the “deadliest disease” list as a race between medicine and cancer, we’re avoiding the truth: Statistics and research aren’t reassuring when you’re sitting in the doctor’s office. Cancer is one step ahead.