Breast cancer causes GDP loss of $600 million: study

Marian Chu  Published 2018.04.11  11:48  Updated 2018.04.11 15:20


Korea saw its gross domestic product fall 2.71 trillion won ($2.5 billion) due to cancer in 2014. About $600 million of the GDP drop stemmed from productivity loss caused by breast cancer, a study showed.

Professor Park Yeon-hee from Samsung Medical Center

Professor Park Yeon-hee, head of Samsung Medical Center’s breast cancer center, and Park Jeong-hyun from the hospital’s treatment planning team led the study on the economic implications of breast cancer among the working-age female population on GDP.

The research pointed out that breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancer among women but also one with the highest overall survival rates. With the quality of healthcare rising and the rate of mortality for all cancers falling, more people have been dealing with chronic, noncommunicable diseases. Cancer has become one of the major causes of illness-related productivity losses.

The number of breast cancer patients, in particular, rose disproportionally, resulting in a massive economic loss. Data showed the amount of GDP loss attributable to breast cancer rose from 92 billion won in 1999 (0.02 percent of the total GDP) to 642 billion won (0.04 percent) by 2014, marking a six-fold jump.

“Our study represents the first of its kind to evaluate the loss of economic production due to breast cancer in South Korea,” the researchers wrote. “In the female working-age population, breast cancer appears to be responsible for the greatest loss of productivity across various types of cancer [in the country].”

The loss in productivity, an SMC official said, was most likely due to the hardship working-age women face after being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Data from the National Cancer Center showed that although around 70 percent were able to return to work following treatment, the remaining 30 percent faced significant difficulties.

Women with breast cancer in Korea, compared to women in Western countries, are more likely to be in the economically active demographic and younger than 35 years old, face a worse prognosis due to a higher likelihood of having genetically “dense” breasts, and deal with economic hardships from unemployment, according to the study.

Considering the impact on GDP, the researchers emphasized the need to monitor breast cancer treatment and management policies closely.

Following breast cancer, the next leading causes of GDP loss were found to be colorectal cancer with 189 billion won, stomach cancer with 187 billion won, lung cancer with 108 billion won, and liver cancer with 61 billion won.

Researchers noted that a larger number of cancer patients could be equated with a more noticeable loss of economic activity with data showing the total loss of productivity due to all types of cancer - excluding that of the thyroid - climbed steadily from 478 billion won in 1999 to 2.71 trillion won in 2014.

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