Infographic Depicting How Bad Habits Increase The Cost Of Cancer Based On Research That GE Healthcare Commissioned Gfk Bridgehead To Conduct In May 2013. (Graphic: Business Wire)

GE Healthcare today released secondary research findings indicating that bad habits and lifestyle choices are contributing approximately $33.9 billion annually to the costs related to cancer. Furthermore, the same research revealed that by reducing bad habits, global healthcare systems could potentially save $25 billion each year.

The research conducted by GfK Bridgehead on behalf of GE Healthcare in May and June 2013 focused on four key bad habits; smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and physical inactivity 1 and their relationship to three types of cancer – breast, lung and colon. The study calculated the cancer costs attributable to bad habits in ten developed and developing markets 2.

“The cumulative global cost of bad habits revealed in this research is staggering. I am encouraged by the potential savings that could be achieved by all of us just making a few small lifestyle changes and committing to a personal monitoring schedule,” said Jeff DeMarrais, Chief Communications Officer, GE Healthcare. “This data reinforces why our annual #GetFit campaign is so important in driving education and awareness of the link between healthy choices, early diagnosis and the possible risk of cancer.”

The research also breaks down the $33.9 billion annual global cost across ten markets by market and includes the current annual cost of treating cancer and the calculated potential annual savings.

The United States with $18.41 billion or 54% of the total current annual global cost of cancer is followed by China at $8.57 billion (25.3%) and France, Germany and Turkey at around $1.5 billion (4.4%). Developing markets such as Brazil with $378 million (1.1%) and Saudi Arabia $107 million (0.3%) currently have significantly lower annual costs of cancer at this point (see table 2).

While it has been long established that tobacco use is linked to the development of lung cancer, the data revealed that other bad habits, such as inactivity and poor nutrition, can also impact the risk of cancer. For example, inactivity and poor nutrition are often associated with weight gain, but this research also demonstrated that men who are inactive have an increased risk of developing colon cancer (relative risk score= 1.61, which means 61% more likely to develop colon cancer than someone who is active). As a result, inactivity can be attributable for $160 million dollars of the cost to treat colon cancer globally.

Up to half of all cancer-related deaths can be prevented by making healthy choices, like maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating properly, being physically active and undertaking recommended screening tests. However, this research and World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that bad habits continue to be prevalent in all markets (see table 3).

In seven of ten markets, over 25% of those populations are still regular smokers. Smoking is most prevalent in France and Turkey where 31% of adults over the age of 15 are smokers.

French females and Turkish males were ranked highest groups for smokers at 31% and 47% respectively.

In terms of physical inactivity Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom ranked bottom. 68.8% of Saudi nationals and 63.3% of British nationals over the age of 18 lead sedentary lifestyles, compared to only 15.6% of Indians and 28% of Germans.

A copy of the research findings and a data visualization can be downloaded at this link and was conducted as part of GE Healthcare’s award-winning #GetFit public awareness cancer prevention campaign.

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Editor’s Notes:

1. The bad habits explored as part of this research were inactivity, poor nutrition, alcohol use, and tobacco use. Inactivity was defined in the clinical trials as exercising 1 – 3 times per month as opposed to 3 – 4 times per week and working at a sedentary job where you sit greater than 6 hours per day. Poor nutrition was defined as high intake of red/processed meats and low fiber intake. Alcohol use was defined as heavy episodic drinkers having at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion weekly. Tobacco use was defined as any use of tobacco products as compared to those who formerly used tobacco.

2. Markets included in the secondary research: Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

Table 1
Global Annual Cost of Treating Cancer
Current Cost in billions   Potential Savings in billions
$ 33.93 $ 25.00

Sources Danaei, G., Hoorn, S. V., Lopez, A. D., Murray, C. J., & Ezzati, M. (2005, Nov 19). Causes of cancer in the world: comparative risk assessment of nine behavioral and environmental risk factors. Lancet, 366(9499), 1784-1793, Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. Am J Public Health, 2013;103:641-648. CIA Factbook:, World Health Organization:, NICE – Diagnosis, assessment and management of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence, 2011

Table 2
Country   Country-level   Country as a percent of Global total
  Current Cost   Potential Savings Current Cost as Global %   Potential Savings as Global %
United States $ 18.41 billion $ 13.37 billion 54.3% 53.5%
United Kingdom $ 649 million $ 465 million 1.9% 1.9%
France $ 1.5 billion $ 1.19 billion 4.4% 4.8%
Germany $ 1.47 billion $ 1.14 billion 4.3% 4.6%
Japan $ 731 million $ 511 million 2.2% 2.0%
Brazil $ 378 million $ 200 million 1.1% 0.8%
India $ 617 million $ 384 million 1.8% 1.5%
China $ 8.57 billion $ 6.5 billion 25.3% 26.0%
Saudi Arabia $ 107 million $ 65 million 0.3% 0.3%
Turkey $ 1.48 billion $ 1.16 billion 4.4% 4.7%

Sources: as cited above

Table 3

Habit   Smoking   Alcoholism ⱡ   Inactivity   Obesity
Data % of the population % of the population % of the population % of the population
Population adults ≥ 15 years adults ≥ 15 years adults ≥ 18 years adults ≥ 20 years
Population group Male   Female   All Male   Female  

Male   Female   All Male   Female   All
Brazil 22% 13% 17% 19.1% 4.1%

47.2% 51.6% 49.4% 16.5% 22.1% 19.5%
China 51% 2% 27% 7.0% 0.1%

29.7% 32.3% 31.0% 4.6% 6.5% 5.6%
France 36% 27% 31% 8.0% 1.9%

27.7% 37.2% 32.5% 16.8% 14.6% 15.6%
Germany 33% 25% 30% 13.1% 2.1%

27.5% 28.5% 28.0% 23.1% 19.2% 21.3%
India 26% 4% 15% 15.2% 5.5%

12.7% 18.4% 15.6% 1.3% 2.5% 1.9%
Japan 42% 12% 27% 17.6% 3.1%

58.9% 61.6% 60.2% 5.5% 3.5% 4.5%
Saudi Arabia 24% 1% 12% 11.2% 0.0%

61.5% 76.2% 68.8% 29.5% 43.5% 35.2%
Turkey 47% 15% 31% 2.4% 0.4%

49.5% 62.5% 56.0% 22.8% 35.6% 29.3%
United Kingdom* 25% 23% 24% 33% 16%

58.0% 68.6% 63.3% 24.4% 25.2% 24.9%
United States of America 33% 25% 29% 9.3% 2.0%

33.5% 47.4% 40.5% 30.2% 33.2% 31.8%

Source: WHO,

* For the UK, alcohol information available on % for abstainers but not current drinkers and research uses NICE guidelines on diagnosis.

Denotes heavy episodic drinkers having at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion weekly. A consumption of 60 grams of pure alcohol corresponds approximately to 6 standard alcoholic drinks.

GfK Bridgehead used published clinical evidence and research in each market and World Health Organization (WHO) population data to define the global cost of bad habits to cancer treatment globally; by calculating the number adults in each market engaged in bad habits, determining the incidence of breast, lung and colorectal cancer based on bad habits and finally determining the costs associated with treating those types of cancer with and without bad habits.

GfK Bridgehead also used published clinical evidence on the increased relative risk of developing cancer for those who engage in bad habits to determine the potential cost savings from treating cancer attributable to those bad habits. The savings calculation assumes that those who change their bad habits and lifestyle would have a decreased relative risk of developing cancer and the potential cost savings are derived from that difference in treatment costs.

GE Healthcare’s #GetFit 2013 campaign ( runs until mid-July and leverages social media channels including Instagram, Sina Weibo in China, and Twitter to enable participation, interaction and engagement of a global audience to promote healthy habits that can help reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.

About GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services to meet the demand for increased access, enhanced quality and more affordable healthcare around the world. GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter - great people and technologies taking on tough challenges. From medical imaging, software & IT, patient monitoring and diagnostics to drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies and performance improvement solutions, GE Healthcare helps medical professionals deliver great healthcare to their patients. For our latest news, please visit

In September 2011, GE Healthcare announced it would dedicate $1 billion of its total R&D budget over the next five years to expand its advanced cancer diagnostic and molecular imaging capabilities, as well as its world-class technologies for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals and for cancer research.

Copyright Business Wire 2010

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