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New report ‘Cancer Costs: a ripple effect analysis of cancer’s wider impact’ published today

Pfizer / Demos
Pfizer UK

10th January 2020

‘Cancer Costs: A ‘Ripple Effect’ Analysis of Cancer’s Wider Impact’, written by UK think tank Demos and supported by Pfizer, has been published today. The report seeks to explore the multifaceted cost of cancer and the impact it has on patients, their families and friends, and the wider UK society.

The report finds the total economic cost of cancer to be £7.6 billion in lost wages and benefits (including mortality). Analysis reveals the extent of a cancer diagnosis on working life and income; around half of cancer patients are forced to make changes to their working patterns and over half of people with cancer see their income fall by at least one income bracket.1

The financial impact extends to the friends and family of those with cancer. The report finds 20 per cent of cancer patients are currently being supported by a family member or friend who has changed their working patterns as a result of caring responsibilities which range from taking unpaid leave through to quitting work.1

Cancer Costs also highlights the significant social impact of cancer. 76 per cent of individuals report that cancer has negatively impacted their family life, with a further 66 per cent stating that cancer has put a serious strain on their family’s social life.1


There are two big challenges facing cancer policy in the next decade. First, despite the upward trajectory of survival rates, our cancer outcomes still lag behind most comparable European countries – and the Government needs to boost investment to catch-up. Second, as more and more people survive cancer, it is no longer acceptable to view cancer entirely through a healthcare lens. Policymakers now need to focus on a simple question: how can we help those affected by cancer – patients, families and communities – live freer and more fulfilling lives? There are a number of ways the Government can do this now – extending pensions freedoms, providing free relationship counselling, introducing statutory carers leave and providing a flexible system of part-time sick leave entitlements that has had so much success in countries like Finland.”

Sacha Hilhorst, Senior Researcher at Demos and Cancer Costs co-author


With the report findings in mind, Demos makes a series of recommendations designed to reduce the ‘ripple effect’ of cancer in the UK. These recommendations include1:

  • Matching NHS spending on cancer to the European average by 2030. This will equate to an extra £2.1 billion a year.
  • Legislating to introduce the ‘Finnish model’ of part-time sick leave entitlements for cancer patients. This would allow individuals to reduce their hours and claim a reduced and relevant level of statutory sickness entitlement. In turn, this would leave individuals with more flexibility to manage their condition.
  • Putting carers leave on a statutory footing, with all employees entitled to ten paid carers’ leave days a year.
  • Extending the 25% tax-free lump sum pensions freedom to diagnosed cancer patients under the age of 55 at no further cost or change to their pension status.
  • Investing £25m in community transport connected to healthcare visits.
  • Piloting a new cancer specific retraining programme, as part of the new National Retraining Partnership.


This research shines a spotlight on the social and economic impact that cancer has on patients, their families and friends and the wider UK society. It is critical that Government, NHS and industry work collaboratively with the cancer community at all levels to ensure patients and their families are supported throughout their individual cancer journey. By working in partnership, we can ensure our health and social care system is best set up to provide world-leading support for those affected by cancer.”

Erling Donnelly, Head of Oncology, Pfizer UK 


Cancer Costs a ripple effect analysis of cancer’s wider impact.pdf (757 KB)





  1. Demos; Cancer Costs: a ripple effect analysis of cancer's wider impact. June 2019


PP-ONC-GBR-1031 / August 2019