NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Are Increasing 5-Year Survival Rates Evidence of Success Against Cancer? A reexamination using data from the U.S. and Australia

Frank R. Lichtenberg

NBER Working Paper No. 16051
Issued in June 2010
NBER Program(s):   AG   EFG   HC   HE   PR

Previous investigators argued that increasing 5-year survival for cancer patients should not be taken as evidence of improved prevention, screening, or therapy, because they found little correlation between the change in 5-year survival for a specific tumor and the change in tumor-related mortality. However, they did not control for the change in incidence, which influences mortality and is correlated with 5-year survival.

We reexamine the question of whether increasing 5-year survival rates constitute evidence of success against cancer, using data from both the U.S. and Australia. When incidence growth is controlled for, there is a highly significant correlation, in both countries, between the change in 5-year survival for a specific tumor and the change in tumor-related mortality. The increase in the relative survival rate is estimated to have reduced the unconditional mortality rate by about 15% in the U.S. between 1976 and 2002, and by about 15% in Australia between 1984 and 2001.

While the change in the 5-year survival rate is not a perfect measure of progress against cancer, in part because it is potentially subject to lead-time bias, it does contain useful information; its critics may have been unduly harsh. Part of the long-run increase in 5-year cancer survival rates is due to improved prevention, screening, or therapy.

download in pdf format
   (222 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper is available as PDF (222 K) or via email.

Acknowledgments

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16051

Published: Frank R. Lichtenberg, 2010. "Are Increasing 5-Year Survival Rates Evidence of Success Against Cancer? A Reexamination Using Data from the U.S. and Australia," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, vol. 13(2).

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Lichtenberg w15880 Has medical innovation reduced cancer mortality?
Sun, Jena, Lakdawalla, Reyes, Philipson, and Goldman w15574 An Economic Evaluation of the War on Cancer
Lichtenberg w10328 The Expanding Pharmaceutical Arsenal in the War on Cancer
Lichtenberg w15068 The Quality of Medical Care, Behavioral Risk Factors, and Longevity Growth
Lichtenberg w18552 The Effect of Pharmaceutical Innovation on Longevity: Patient-Level Evidence from the 1996-2002 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and Linked Mortality Public-Use Files
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us