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Facing scarce resources, policymakers must determine how best to invest in their country’s future. Investment in health can save costs and facilitate economic growth by increasing productivity. Economic analyses help governments and international donors identify health practices that are not only feasible, but also the best value for money.

The exact global cost of cancer is unknown, but it is undoubtedly well into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. In the United States alone, the estimated cost of cancer in 2009, including direct medical costs as well as the cost of lost productivity due to premature death, was US$216.6 billion per year. The global cost of cancer is expected to increase due to increases in the number of new cancer cases as well as the growing cost of cancer therapies.

The total cost of cancer in the European Union is more than the entire EU budget.

In billion (BN) euros in 2009

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Text alternative: The total cost of cancer in the European Union as compared to the entire EU budget Graph showing that the total cost of cancer in the European Union is more than the entire EU budget Download High Res

The exact global cost of cancer is unknown, but it is undoubtedly well into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

However, a substantial part of this cost can be averted by investing in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. For example, cost-effective strategies to address common cancer risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity in low- and middle-income countries would cost only US$2 billion per year, a small amount compared to the costs incurred by the total disease burden. For example, in developing countries, cervical cancer screenings that require little laboratory infrastructure, such as simple visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid or DNA testing for HPV in cervical cell samples, cost less than US$500 per year of life saved. In general, cancer prevention is far more cost-effective than treatment.

Cervical cancer prevention programs are very affordable.

Estimated annual average cost (in USD) per capita of a comprehensive cervical cancer prevention program in the ten countries with the highest estimated age-standardized cervical cancer mortality rate (world) in 2012

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Map depicting estimated annual average cost (in USD) per capita of a comprehensive cervical cancer prevention program in the ten countries with the highest estimated age-standardized (world) cervical cancer mortality rate in 2012

“It is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver."

Mahatma Gandhi