Estimating the economic impact of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control: A technical note

Understanding the economic impact of improved cancer control efforts is critical for informing decision-making about future investments and is vital for the sustainability of the cancer control system

This information also highlights the potential benefits to broader society.

In 2006, Canada’s original Strategy was developed by over 700 Canadians – health professional, researchers, academics, health system leaders and patient advocates. The Strategy was developed to align cancer control efforts, with a guiding vision that fewer Canadians would develop cancer, more would survive cancer and that those affected by cancer would have better quality of life.

Over the past decade, the Strategy, has been a powerful tool for change and improvement. With the Strategy as a guide, cancer organizations, health professionals, researchers and others have been working together in new ways to improve cancer control across the country. Solutions to longstanding gaps and challenges have been implemented and positive results are emerging, including:

  • A stronger focus on cancer prevention
  • Increased screening for cancer
  • Earlier detection and diagnosis
  • Improved treatment and quality of life for those affected by cancer

Impact on cancer rates, deaths and costs

The Partnership has been funded since 2007 by the federal government to steward the Strategy. The investment made in Canadian cancer control efforts has had an important economic impact over the last 10 years. Using a simplified analysis that examined the trends in cancer rates and deaths in the periods before and after the Strategy was implemented, we estimate that since 2007 the following have been avoideda:

  • Approximately 74,000 cancer cases
  • Over 51,000 deaths
  • $5 billion in cancer-related treatment costs

As a result of avoided cancer deaths, it is estimated that the Canadian economy avoided nearly $20 billion in household productivity losses and the government generated an additional $2 billion in income-tax revenue.

How the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer estimated the economic impact of a collaborative approach to cancer control

In a simplified analysis, the average incidence1 and mortality rates1 over the period of 1996-2006 were used to project the expected incidence and mortality rates and the expected number of new cancer cases and deaths, for the period of 2007-2018, with an assumption that the Strategy was not implemented, and the existing trends were maintained. The estimated number of new cancer cases avoided, and cancer deaths avoided, were calculated as the difference between the projected estimates and the actual number of new cancer cases2 and deaths2 during this period. The number of new cancer cases and cancer deaths avoided were then used to calculate the average treatment costs avoided3, productivity losses due to cancer deaths avoided4 and the personal income tax gained.5,6 OncoSim, a microsimulation model developed by the Partnership, was used to inform these estimates.

Understanding the economic impact of improved cancer control efforts is vital for ensuring the sustainability of the cancer control system. The Partnership‘s work ensures that Canadian policy-makers continue to have a solid understanding of cancer’s economic burden, and that this information is made accessible and drives informed decision-making across the cancer control system.

a- To put the avoided cancer cases and avoided deaths into context, between 2006 and 2016, there were 2 million people diagnosed with cancer, 900,000 deaths and approximately $45 billion spent on cancer treatment costs.
1- Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2017;
2- Canadian Cancer Registry 1992-2013, Statistics Canada.
3- de Oliveira C, Pataky R, Bremner KE, Rangrej J, Chan KK, Cheung WY, Hoch JS, Peacock S, Krahn MD. Estimating the Cost of Cancer Care in British Columbia and Ontario: A Canadian Inter-Provincial Comparison. Healthcare Policy. 2017 Feb;12(3):95-108.
4- Pearce A, Bradley C, Hanly P, et al. Projecting productivity losses for cancer-related mortality 2011 – 2030. BMC Cancer. 2016;16(1):804. Published 2016 Oct 18. doi:10.1186/s12885-016-2854-4
5- Hopkins RB, Goeree R, Longo CJ. Estimating the national wage loss from cancer in Canada. Curr Oncol. 2010;17(2):40-9.
6- Canadian income tax rates for individuals – current and previous years ;