Cancer's toll: 170 million life-years

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 16, 2012
Cancers cost the world some 170 million years of healthy life in 2008, according to a new study.

In an article published Tuesday in The Lancet, researchers found that the global burden for cancer in 2008 was 169.3 million disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs, which count years of life lost early from cancer along with years of living with a disability due to the disease.

Colorectal, breast, lung and prostate cancer accounted for between 18 and 50 percent of the DALYs. However, infection-related cancers, such as liver, stomach and cervical cancer, accounted for one-quarter of DALYs in sub-Saharan Africa and 27 percent of DALYs in eastern Asia, according to the researchers.

The study, which examined 184 countries, was led by Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram with the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

In a comment accompanying the article, Ahmedin Jemal observed that calculating DALYs gives a different picture of cancer's impact than mortality estimates.

"By contrast with mortality rates and counts, which emphasize deaths occurring at old ages, DALY give more weight to deaths occurring at young ages," he wrote.

The study is "Global burden of cancer in 2008: a systematic analysis of disability-adjusted life-years in 12 world regions."

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