A population-level comparison of cancer-related and non-cancer-related health care costs using publicly available provincial administrative data

D. Sam, W. Y. Cheung


Introduction Costs associated with cancer care are increasing. Cancer costs in the context of other common non-cancer diagnoses have not been extensively studied at the population level. Knowledge from such analyses can inform health care resource allocation and highlight strategies to reduce overall costs.

Methods Using cross-sectional data from publicly available population-level administrative data sources (health insurance claims, physician billing, and hospital discharge abstracts), we calculated incidence-adjusted health care costs (in 2014 Canadian dollars) for cancers and common non-cancer diagnoses in the adult population in a large Canadian province. Subgroup analyses were also performed for various provincial health administrative regions.

Results Total costs related to cancer care amounted to $495 million for the province, of which at least $67 million (14%) was attributable to radiation and chemotherapy. Of the various cancer subtypes, hematologic malignancies were most costly at $70 million, accounting for 14% of the total cancer budget. Colon cancer followed at $51 million (10%), and lung cancer, at $44 million (9%). Cancer costs (with and without costs for radiation and chemotherapy) exceeded those for cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, mental health, and trauma (p < 0.001). In addition, the costs of specific cancer subtypes varied by region, but hematologic and lung cancers were typically the most costly no matter the health region.

Conclusions Using provincial administrative data to establish cost trends can help to inform health care allocation and budget decisions, and can facilitate comparisons between provinces.


Cancer costs; healthcare costs; administrative database; health economics

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.26.4399

Copyright © 2019 Multimed Inc.
ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)