Obesity is a significant risk factor of several cancers that imposes a substantial economic burden on US healthcare that remains to be quantified. We estimated the excess costs and economic burden of obesity-related cancers in the United States.
From the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (2008-2015) data, we identified 19 405 cancer survivors and 175 498 non-cancer individuals. We estimated annual health expenditures using generalized linear regression with log link and gamma distribution by cancer types (stratified by 11 obesity-related cancers and other cancer types), controlling for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. All cost estimates were adjusted to 2015 USD value.
The average annual total health expenditures were $21 503 (95% CI, $20 946-$22 061) for those with obesity-related cancer and $13 120 (95% CI, $12 920-$13 319) for those with other cancer types. There was a positive association between body mass index and health expenditures among cancer survivors: for each additional 5-unit increase in body mass index, the average predicted expenditures increase by $1503 among those with obesity-related cancer and by $722 among those with other cancers. With adjustments for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, the mean incremental expenditures of treating obesity-related cancer were 2.1 times higher than those of other cancers ($4492 vs $2139) and more considerable among the non-elderly cancer population. Obesity-related cancers accounted for nearly 43.5% of total direct cancer care expenditures, estimated at $35.9 billion in 2015.
The economic burden of obesity-related cancer in the United States is substantial. Our findings suggest a need for the inclusion of comprehensive obesity prevention and treatment in cancer care.