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The Long-run Impact of New Medical Ideas on Cancer Survival and Mortality

Frank R. Lichtenberg

NBER Working Paper No. 25328
Issued in December 2018
NBER Program(s):Aging, Development of the American Economy, Health Care, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

I investigate whether the types of cancer (breast, colon, lung, etc.) subject to greater penetration of new ideas had larger subsequent survival gains and mortality reductions, controlling for changing incidence. I use the MEDLINE/PubMED database, which contains more than 23 million references to journal articles published in 5400 leading biomedical journals, to construct longitudinal measures of the penetration of new medical ideas.

The 5-year survival rate is strongly positively related to the novelty of ideas in articles published 12-24 years earlier. This finding is consistent with evidence from case studies that it takes a long time for research evidence to reach clinical practice. The estimates suggest that about 70% of the 1994-2008 increase in the 5-year observed survival rate for all cancer sites combined may have been due to the increase in the novelty of medical ideas 12-24 years earlier.

The number of years of potential life lost from cancer before ages 80 and 70 are inversely related to the novelty of ideas in articles published 12-24 years earlier, conditional on incidence. The increase in medical idea novelty was estimated to have caused a 38% decline in the premature (before age 80) cancer mortality rate 12-24 years later.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25328

Published: "The long-run impact of new medical ideas on cancer survival and mortality," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, December 2018

 
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