Opportunities for Cancer Prevention Over the Next 30 Years

Maurie Markman, MD


October 03, 2023

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. I'm Dr Maurie Markman from City of Hope. I wanted to briefly discuss a very interesting, highly provocative paper, in my opinion, that recently appeared in JAMA Oncology, entitled, "Estimates and Projections of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers in 204 Countries and Territories From 2020 to 2050."

Basically, this paper is attempting to model what is going to be seen in the cancer arena across the world over the next three decades. These are fascinating results. Obviously, this study has all the caveats associated with any modeling study. The bottom line here is that cancer is going to be extremely expensive for the world.

The estimate that these authors have come up with in their model was 25 trillion in international dollars, and that's in 2017 prices. Another way of looking at this, and a fascinating way of trying to put these dollars, is by taking the entire global gross domestic product over this period; this was the equivalent to a 0.55% tax on that entire global domestic product. There is a large amount of money being spent on cancer.

Not surprisingly — and I'm getting to the point that I want to make in the end — the major cancers that are projected to be seen will be cancers of the lung and trachea/bronchus, colorectal, breast, liver, and leukemia. With the exception of leukemia, as far as we know today, there are well-known, well-established, highly effective cancer prevention strategies available.

Putting it together, look at the enormous global cost and what we could do with that $25 trillion. In addition to having an impact on climate control efforts, think about if we were able to dramatically reduce tobacco use. Think about what we could do if we enhanced strategies for breast and colon cancer screening or vaccination against the hepatitis virus.

Think about the number of cancers that can be completely prevented, not have to be treated with surgery or radiation or anticancer drugs — truly prevented. The economic costs are enormous, but the opportunity here for cancer prevention is perhaps even a more important story to tell.

I would encourage all listeners to read this important paper and to think in your own mind on what we might be able to do over the next 30 years to prevent this extremely expensive and obviously deadly group of Illnesses. I thank you for your attention.

Maurie Markman, MD, is a professor in the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research at City of Hope in Duarte, California and the president of Medicine & Science at City of Hope Atlanta, Chicago, and Phoenix. He has more than 20 years of experience in cancer treatment and gynecologic oncology research.

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