【Aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan】No.12: Increasing Cancer Patient and Medical Expenses

In this column series, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Research Director at CIGS introduces the latest information about aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan with data of international comparison.

As shown in Figure 1, according to the National Cancer Center Japan, there was an estimated 1,014,000 cancer patients in 2017 in the country. This was over three times the number in 1985 (331,000 patients). This reflects an increase in the elderly population with a relatively high prevalence of cancer, which, as shown in Table 1, is ranked first in cause of death.

As introduced in column No.8, cancer medical expenses for fiscal 2015 was 3,589 billion yen, accounting for 8.5% of the total medical expenses of 42,364 billion yen. One challenge of cancer treatment in Japan is the dependence on overseas anticancer drugs. The import value of anticancer drugs (see Note) increased from 149 billion yen in 2005 to 552 billion yen in 2015. Therefore, if the yen badly depreciates due to failed fiscal reconstruction, the import of cancer medicine will be greatly affected.

Note: Due to statistical classification, the following four items are not included in the import value: alkylating reagents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, and antineoplastic preparations extracted from plants.

Figure 1: Number of cancer patients


Source: National Cancer Center Japan

Table 1: Number of deaths due to cause (2016)


Source: Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare

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