14 Apr 2015

Cancer treatment costs outstrip estimates

3:59 pm on 14 April 2015

New research shows the cost of treating cancer is hundreds of millions of dollar more than previously thought.

Researchers at Otago University have calculated the annual cost of treating cancer in the public health system at $880 million a year which is 26 percent higher than earlier estimated.

The Ministry of Health had previously estimated the cost at $526 million.

Study co-author Associate Professor Nick Wilson said the increase is due to improved data and statistical methods.

He said more effort needs to be put into public health initiatives like reducing smoking and alcohol consumption for New Zealand to reduce the overall cost of cancer.

Dr Wilson said the new figure highlights the impact cancer has on society.

"The cost of cancer is a very high figture so that's relevant to thinking about to what extent could the burden of cancer be reduced through prevention and earlier diagnosis. New Zealand has made good progress with various types of cancer prevention but it still has a long way to go."

The research shows the most expensive cancer to treat is leukaemia, at an average of $95,000 per patient, while melanoma is the cheapest cancer in terms of treatment at $8,000 per patient.

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