Leukaemia the most expensive cancer per case

Leukaemia was the most expensive cancer in Australia in 2000-01 in terms of lifetime treatment costs per case, according to figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The estimated treatment cost for leukaemia was approximately $51,000 per case. The next most expensive cancers to treat per case were brain cancer, ($41,000), multiple myeloma (tumours of the bone marrow)( $37,000) and cancers of the larynx and oesophagus ($34,500 and $31,000 respectively).

Other costs per case included non-Hodgkins lymphoma ($28,000), colorectal cancer ($18,000), prostate cancer ($18,000), lung cancer ($16,500) and breast cancer ($12,000).

The most common cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), had the lowest treatment cost per case at around $700.

Health system expenditures on cancer and other neoplasms in Australia, 2000-01 shows that total expenditure for cancer (malignant neoplasms) was $2.15 billion, for public health programs $130 million, and for other neoplasms $634 million, giving a total of $2.9 billion. Around 90% of the expenditure for cancer was for treatment.

The most expensive cancers overall were NMSC ($264 million), followed by breast cancer ($241 million), colorectal cancer ($235 million), and prostate cancer ($201 million). NMSC was easily the most common of all the cancers with 364,000 new cases in 2001. All other cancers combined accounted for 88,400 new cases in the same year.

Hospitals accounted for 68% of overall expenditure on cancer and other neoplasms. In contrast, for all other diseases, 42% of expenditure was in hospitals.

The cost of cancer treatment to the Australian community grew by $400 million in real terms (24%) in the period 1993-94 to 2000-01. The leading contributors to the increase were prostate cancer (estimated $97 million increase, up by 93%), colorectal cancer ($72 million increase, up by 44%), non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) ($51 million, 24%), and breast cancer ($31 million, 30%).

Head of the AIHW Summary Measures Unit, John Goss, said that most of the overall increase could be explained by a 17% increase in the number of cases of cancer over the same period, due to ageing of the population and population growth. The rise was not due to an increase in the rate of new cancers.

Mr Goss also said that there had not been a general increase in real cost per case, with the notable exception of prostate cancer.

'It cost about $18,000 to treat someone with prostate cancer in 2000-01, up from $8,000 in 1993-94, and that's mostly due to a greater use of pharmaceuticals in treatment'.

'This has had a marked effect on the overall figures. If the cost per prostate cancer case had not risen we would have seen an overall rise in cancer treatment costs of 18% in real terms rather than 24%.'

26 May 2005

Further information: Mr John Goss, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1151, 0402 346 379

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.