What Does Cancer Cost Employers?

Cancer is responsible for significant losses in productivity every year in the workplace

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Cancer is expensive for individuals, families and communities. But what about an employer? A research study found that absenteeism caused by cancer-related issues significantly reduces actual days worked. 

The study’s findings showed cancer is responsible for approximately $7.5 billion in lost productivity every year. 

These researchers found prevention, health-promoting practices and support networks could help lower cancer costs for small businesses - and enable cancer to be identified earlier.

"Reach out for support when battling cancer."

Grant H. Skrepnek, PhD, RPh, from the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, Arizona, led the research team. For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2004-2008 concerning the impact of cancer on healthcare expenditures, hospitalizations and productivity in the US workforce.

All employed adults, 18 years and older with any type of cancer diagnosis were included in the study.

A total of 3.31 million people per year fit the criteria. Calculations show the loss of productivity was 33.4 million days per year from disability, which costs $7.5 billion.

Chief among the highest burden cancers were women’s cancers and melanoma, the toughest type of skin cancer. Breast cancer costs were double for hospitalizations and 55 percent higher for disability days compared to other cancers.

Based on this information, researchers calculated the total loss of work days due to cancer-caused disability amounted to nearly 20 percent of all yearly healthcare expenditures.

Smaller companies employed approximately 85 percent of workers with cancer where the impact of lost days of work was significant. Smaller companies were less likely to offer health insurance for employees.

Authors recommended supportive care interventions to reduce disability days.

Contributing expert, Adam Powell, PhD, said, "Cancer has a substantial impact on people both within and outside the workforce. As was the case with Steve Jobs' battle with cancer, treatment can require employees to take leaves of absence and to seek costly treatments."

"Many large employers are self-insured, and as a result, incur both the medical and non-medical expenditures associated with cancer."

"This study helps quantify the great economic burden that cancer imposes on employers. While employers are not able to reduce the incidence of all types of cancer, estimates of the economic burden of cancer can be used to help employers justify taking greater precautionary measures in instances where it is possible to do so."

This study was published in December in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

No funding information was provided. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 18, 2012
Last Updated:
December 20, 2012