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Lives at Risk from Cancer in New South Wales 2007-2036

Cancer currently represents the major burden of disease facing our community. It is the major cause of death, the major cause of premature deaths and the major cause of deaths in the productive age groups 45 to 65 years. The incidence rates have increased by 10 per cent in men and seven per cent in women over the last few years. The exceptions are increasing incidence rates of prostate cancer and decreasing incidence rates of breast cancer. However, the numbers of cancer cases continue to increase.

This report, Lives at Risk from Cancer in NSW 2007–2036, simulates the major factors at work increasing the number of cancer cases.

The simulations have suggested that around two-thirds of cancer cases can be attributed to the population ageing and growing. Other risk factors such as smoking and lifestyle are modelled. The report estimates that over the next 10 years more than 400,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in NSW and around 140,000 are at risk of dying of the disease. Over the 10-year period between 2007 and 2016, the cumulative total direct and indirect costs of cancer will be
approximately $106 billion which consists of an estimated $18.2 billion in direct health care costs, $37.6 billion in the lost wages, $26.2 billion in loss of corporate profi ts and $24.2 billion in the loss of government taxes. Long-term projections indicate that it will cost at least $64 billion over the next 30 years to fund the direct health care costs of cancer in NSW. This consists of $38.4 billion for the cost of hospitalisation, $4.5 billion for out of hospital expenses, $21.4 billion for pharmaceuticals and other expenses.ii Indirect costs for the next 30 years were estimated at approximately $260 billion which comprises $110.5 billion in lost wages, $78 billion in lost corporate profi ts and $71.6 billion in lost government taxes (Figure 2). These cost estimations do not include the added burden of pain and suffering or the emotional and fi nancial cost to care givers.

These simulations provide a glimpse of the future, assuming that we are unable to intervene and substantially reduce known risk factors to prevent cancer. The predictions of such large numbers of cancer cases and their costs could be changed if we were able to prevent more cancers or diagnose more of them much earlier and therefore treat them more effectively. This report provides an urgent incentive to change the future as predicted in this report by more effective cancer prevention, screening and treatment programs.