NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Has medical innovation reduced cancer mortality?

Frank R. Lichtenberg

NBER Working Paper No. 15880
Issued in April 2010
NBER Program(s):   HC   HE   PR

I analyze the effects of four types of medical innovation and cancer incidence on U.S. cancer mortality rates during the period 2000-2009, by estimating difference-in-differences models using longitudinal (annual) data on about 60 cancer sites (breast, colon, etc.). The outcome measure used is not subject to lead-time bias. I control for mean age at diagnosis, the stage distribution of patients at time of diagnosis, and the sex and race of diagnosed patients.

Under the assumption that there were no pre‚Äźdated factors that drove both innovation and mortality and that there would have been parallel trends in mortality in the absence of innovation, the estimates indicate that there were three major sources of the 13.8% decline of the age-adjusted cancer mortality rate during 2000-2009. Drug innovation and imaging innovation are estimated to have reduced the cancer mortality rate by 8.0% and 4.0%, respectively. The decline in incidence is estimated to have reduced the cancer mortality rate by 1.2%. The social value of the reductions in cancer mortality attributable to medical innovations has been enormous, and much greater than the cost of these innovations.

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This paper was revised on October 11, 2013

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