Do the Huge Amounts We Spend on Cancer Pay Off?

New study says yes, experts call it incredibly misleading
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2012 2:23 PM CDT
Do the Huge Amounts We Spend on Cancer Pay Off?
The US spends a lot on cancer treatment. Is it worth it?   (Shutterstock)

The US spends a lot more on cancer treatments than most countries, spending an average of $70,000 per case, compared to $44,000 in Europe. But it's worth it, a controversial new study argues, because American patients live an average 11.1 years after being diagnosed, compared to 9.3 years in Europe. The researchers assumed every year of life was worth $150,000 to $360,000, and hence declared that the spending pays off. But don't get too excited; experts tell Reuters the study is fatally flawed.

"This study is pure folly," said one biostatistician. "It's completely misguided and it's dangerous. Not only are the authors' analyses flawed, but their conclusions are wrong." The study, which was conducted by a conservative think tank and funded by a cancer drug manufacturer, is skewed by "lead-time bias," argue some: Say two people of the exact same age have a tumor; one is diagnosed in 2006, and the other in 2008. Both die in 2012. The "survival" data used by the study would say one survived six years, the other four. But they had the same lifetime. Health economists also questioned the $150,000 figure, noting that the public shows little appetite for such lavish health spending. (More cancer stories.)

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