BACKGROUND: Health systems are facing the challenge of providing care to an increasing population of patients with cancer. However, evidence on costs is limited due to the lack of large longitudinal databases.
METHODS: We matched cost of care data to population-based, patient-level data on cancer patients in England. We conducted a retrospective cohort study including all patients age 18 and over with a diagnosis of colorectal (275 985 patients), breast (359 771), prostate (286 426) and lung cancer (283 940) in England between 2001 and 2010. Incidence costs, prevalence costs, and phase of care costs were estimated separately for patients age 18-64 and ⩾65. Costs of care were compared by patients staging, before and after diagnosis, and with a comparison population without cancer.
RESULTS: Incidence costs in the first year of diagnosis are noticeably higher in patients age 18-64 than age ⩾65 across all examined cancers. A lower stage diagnosis is associated with larger cost savings for colorectal and breast cancer in both age groups. The additional costs of care because of the main four cancers amounts to £1.5 billion in 2010, namely 3.0% of the total cost of hospital care.
CONCLUSIONS: Population-based, patient-level data can be used to provide new evidence on the cost of cancer in England. Early diagnosis and cancer prevention have scope for achieving large cost savings for the health system.