The Impact of Biomedical Knowledge Accumulation on Mortality: A Bibliometric Analysis of Cancer Data

Frank R. Lichtenberg

NBER Working Paper No. 19593
Issued in October 2013
NBER Program(s):   AG   DAE   EFG   HC   PE   PR

I examine the relationship across diseases between the long-run growth in the number of publications about a disease and the change in the age-adjusted mortality rate from the disease. The diseases analyzed are almost all the different forms of cancer, i.e. cancer at different sites in the body (lung, colon, breast, etc.). Time-series data on the number of publications pertaining to each cancer site were obtained from PubMed. For articles published since 1975, it is possible to distinguish between publications indicating and not indicating any research funding support.

My estimates indicate that mortality rates: (1) are unrelated to the (current or lagged) stock of publications that had not received research funding; (2) are only weakly inversely related to the contemporaneous stock of published articles that received research funding; and (3) are strongly inversely related to the stock of articles that had received research funding and been published 5 and 10 years earlier. The effect after 10 years is 66% larger than the contemporaneous effect. The strong inverse correlation between mortality growth and growth in the lagged number of publications that were supported by research funding is not driven by a small number of outliers.

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.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19593

Forthcoming: The Impact of Biomedical Knowledge Accumulation on Mortality: A Bibliometric Analysis of Cancer Data, Frank R. Lichtenberg. in Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs, Aizcorbe, Baker, Berndt, and Cutler. 2016

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Lichtenberg The Impact of Biomedical Knowledge Accumulation on Mortality: A Bibliometric Analysis of Cancer Data
Lichtenberg w10328 The Expanding Pharmaceutical Arsenal in the War on Cancer
Cutler, Ghosh, and Landrum w19268 Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity In the Elderly U.S. Population
Clark, Maki, and Morrill w19591 Can Simple Informational Nudges Increase Employee Participation in a 401(k) Plan?
NBER Videos

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

Contact Us