Cancer Nanomedicine

Untreated Obesity Means More Cancer Costs

Infographic - Cancers Associated with ObesityThe total cost of cancer care is daunting. It  will add up to $157 billion in 2020, says the NCI. But big numbers can leave us numb. So if you look at what a cancer diagnosis costs a person, it’s devastating. Cancer more than doubles the odds of bankruptcy. Against that dismal backdrop, we have the news this week that about 43 percent of the cost of cancer care goes for treating obesity-related cancers.

Moreover, the cost of treating obesity-related cancer is double the cost of treating other types of cancer.

Medical Expenditures Analysis

Young-Rock Hong and colleagues examined medical expenditures for 19,405 cancer survivors, along with 175,498 persons who had no cancer. To begin with, they found increasing medical costs for people with higher BMIs and cancer. But those costs went up twice as fast when the cancer was one that’s linked to obesity.

Already, we’re seeing obesity-related cancers rising in younger people. Thus, the authors warn that the cost of untreated obesity will be showing up increasingly in the costs of cancer care. Hong says:

Multifaceted prevention strategies including education and sustained intervention programs to tackle obesity among cancer survivors may be needed to reduce this burden.

Obesity Care Reduces Cancer Risk

A decade ago, the evidence emerged that effective obesity care – bariatric surgery – can reduce cancer risk. More recently, researchers told us that bariatric surgery patients have a third less risk of any cancer than obesity patients who don’t get surgery. The risks come down even further when you look specifically at obesity-related cancer.

Given the high cost of cancer and the high cost of untreated obesity, isn’t it about time to start taking obesity care seriously? Isn’t it about time to lower the foolish barriers to effective obesity care?

Click here for the study by Hong et al. For more on the high and hidden costs of cancer, click here and here.

Cancer Nanomedicine, photograph © NIH Image Gallery / flickr. Photo credit: Jenolyn Alexander, Biana Godin, Veronika Kozlovskaya, and Eugenia Kharlampieva.

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


August 23, 2019