Differences in Colorectal Cancer Death Rates Impact the Economy

Increasing colon cancer awareness could exponentially decrease disease-related deaths.

Increasing colon cancer awareness could exponentially decrease disease-related deaths.

Disparities in colorectal cancer (CRC) death rates greatly impact the national economy as poorer, less-educated communities carry the bigger burden.

CRC — often considered preventable deaths – accounts for nearly $6.4 billion in lost productivity.

Hannah K. Weir, PhD, senior epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), used US mortality and population data from 2008 to 2012 to focus on the number of American CRC deaths between 50 to 74 years old.

Applying the CRC mortality rate from higher to lower SES communities, Weird found 16.8% of the deaths in lower SES communities were likely preventable.

Weir said, “A substantial number of colorectal cancer deaths are potentially preventable through routine colorectal screening. We found that many of those preventable deaths are in lower socioeconomic status (SES) communities, and cancer puts a huge economic burden on those communities.”

According to the CDC, eradicating avoidable CRC deaths would result in $4.2 billion in productivity gains in men and $2.2 billion in women. These figures include salaries, wages, and expected financial contributions to family care — they don’t cover the cost of diagnosis, treatment, and care.

Naturally, education is vital. Weird believed that increasing CRC awareness in lower SES areas could exponentially decrease CRC deaths and in turn, associated economic losses.

Furthermore, in lower SES communities, 194,927 =years of potential life were lost as a result of premature CRC deaths, compared with 128,812 years of potential life lost in the higher SES communities. "Those are years in which these people would have been contributing to the financial welfare of their family and their community," Weir said.

Weir concluded, “Higher SES groups have better access to care, and have fewer barriers including being unable to take time off work.”