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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

The Global Costs of Cancer – Think $1.5 Trillion, or More, Every Year; The Litigation Industry

The players in the the litigation industry inevitably pay attention to large numbers. In that vein, and in the broader social sense, consider the annual global cost of cancer.

According to an August 2010 study from the American Cancer Society, cancer is the world’s most costly disease in terms of lost productivity. Why? Because cancer kills or disables so many so early in life, and thus imposes costs that exceed by 20% the lost productivity costs from heart disease.

The annual lost productivity number for cancer? The number is estimated at just under $1 trillion, at $ 895 billion – every year. Click here to see the American Cancer Society’s August 2010 report. Is the estimate/report imperfect because the data is imperfect? Of course it is, as the report acknowledges. But at that incredible scale, it seems logical to believe that any imperfections are immaterial.

Lost productivity is only one money-based measure of the global cost of cancer. The report indicates that if one adds in the direct medical costs of treating cancer, then the annual world cost of cancer about doubles. That produces a measure of the annual global cost of cancer as between $ 1.5 and $ 2 trillion – every year.

Numbers in the trillions inevitably draw social and litigation attention. Indeed, the numbers present a staggering set of costs the world incurs to cope with the cancers caused by nature, and by toxic products. The report directly focuses on the enormous role of tobacco in causing cancers. No wonder tobacco giant Phillip Morris lured David Bernick away from K & E to become its general counsel, as described here.

One suspects that some of the products of some chemical, herbicide, fertilizer and seed makers ill soon become additional targets for the cost estimators. Indeed, one need think only briefly of Agent Orange – and other products – to recognize that some of the their products include some of the world’s most potent carcinogens. Other products, such as some seeds, are explicitly designed for use with herbicides that include proven or suspected carcinogens.

The litigation industry already includes a significant focus on some of the products of some of those companies as causes of blood cancers. The large numbers for cancer no doubt mean that the years ahead will bring increasing litigation and public scrutiny to some members of the chemical, herbicide, fertilizer and seed industries.

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