Higher U.S. spending for cancer care pays off in almost two years of additional life for American cancer patients on average compared to their European counterparts — a value that offsets the higher costs –according to a study in the April issue of the journal Health Affairs.
While previous studies have suggested U.S. cancer patients have better survival prospects than their European counterparts, the researchers wanted to examine whether those prospects justify higher U.S. costs. To do so, they translated the longer lives of U.S. patients into dollar amounts using a conservative estimate of the value of a human life year — in the context of the tradeoffs people are willing to make to reduce their risk of death — and compared those amounts to U.S. spending on cancer care. The method does not take into account quality of life or individuals’ earnings.
“We found that the value of the survival gains greatly outweighed the costs, which suggests that the costs of cancer care were indeed ‘worth it,’” the researchers wrote in the study. They cautioned the findings do not prove that all treatments are cost-effective or a that a causal link exists between spending on cancer care and survival gains.